[LMB] Archive Of Our Own

Beatrice Otter beatrice_otter at zoho.com
Sun Apr 26 20:09:49 BST 2020

---- On Sun, 26 Apr 2020 11:12:25 -0700 Katherine Collett <kcollett at hamilton.edu> wrote ----

Interesting discussion on Tumblr (forwarded to me by my son) about the fanfiction site AO3, which many of us very much enjoy. 

tldr: OP accuses AO3 of making too much money by fundraising; replies point out that the stories have to be free for copyright reasons, and that it’s an incredibly well run and easy to use site, run by volunteers, but does need significant hardware and support. 

Beatrice Otter:

Oh, yes, that.  It's a perennial fight that crops up around AO3.

You see, there's a group of fans (often called "antis"*) who want to control the moral content of fanfic and fannish content.  They are *really* adept at coming up with justifications for why any content they don't like is immoral and evil and the content creator should be harassed.  For example, if you write a fic in which a rape occurs, they will say you are glorifying and encouraging rape.  if you write two characters in a romantic relationship, and one of them is 18 and one is 17, they will call you a pedophile.  Virtually ANYTHING can be, with a little bit of mental gymnastics, reframed as pedophilia.  If they don't like a fictional relationship, and both characters are mature adults of roughly the same age, well, then, the fact that one character is shorter than the other means that that character is "coded" as a child, and therefore if you enjoy stories about that pairing you are a pedophile!  (Yes, believe it or not, this is an argument I have seen people use.  I wish to God it were an exaggeration, but it is not.)  Pedophilia is their go-to accusation because it gets such a strong reaction.  I have seen them do this many times.  On tumblr and other social media platforms, they will get together and dogpile people who create content they don't like, with all kinds of nasty language.  They'll also make posts "proving" that the person whose fic or art they don't like is an evil pedophile and should be harassed and shunned.  It's a culture based on the absolute worst sorts of internet behaviors, with a thin veneer of social justice language over the top.  If you are familiar with their tactics and rhetoric, and do a little digging, you almost always find that the accusations are total bullshit.  The problem is, when someone who does *not* know their tactics and rhetoric sees it, they assume that if someone is being called a pedophile it must be for actions and behaviors that are at least within shouting distance of the way the word is normally understood, and that nobody would make such a claim if they didn't have proof of really seriously bad behavior.  And so they tend to side with the people accusing others of pedophilia.  And then when they see other people defending the person accused of pedophilia, well, such people must be horrible pedophiles too, right?  And then the antis suck them in until previously reasonable people are also antis.

What does this have to do with AO3?  Well, AO3 does not allow this bullshit on their platform.  They do not have a private messaging system, so you can't flood someone's inbox with nasty comments.  You can leave nasty comments on a fic, but if you are obviously harassing the author, the author can complain to the Abuse team and get you banned.  And if you complain to the abuse team that someone's fic is pedophilia, they will reply that unless it meets the LEGAL DEFINITION of child pornography in the US, it is allowed on the archive no matter what anyone thinks about it.  None of the harassment tactics work on AO3 for the good and simple reason that the people who designed AO3 had seen lots of harassment in fandom before, and took thought for how to make it hard to harass people.

You can imagine that a group whose entire way of interacting with others is based on harassment find this INFURIATING.  So they try and discredit AO3 whenever possible, first by telling people that "AO3 was created by pedophiles to host child pornography!"  Second, every year at the twice-annual fund drives (April and October) they try to claim that there are some sort of shady financial dealings going on.  It's all smoke and mirrors and innuendo, though, never a concrete accusation, because AO3's financials are very transparent and easy to find.  The VAST majority of the that the Organization for Transformative Works (the parent organization) raises goes to AO3's server costs, hosting, and coding, because it's a massive website.

Oh, and all of the AO3 code base is posted for public use.  If the antis wanted to have their own version of the archive where they could control what content was allowed and what wasn't, they are perfectly welcome to do so!  AO3 would give them the code and show them how to set it up!  And there are LOTS of us who would prefer it if they just did that and left the rest of us alone.  Funny how they're always happy to harass people and tell nasty lies about both people and AO3, but they still use the archive.  Guess they're just more into harassing people than putting in the time and effort and money to actually create something.

*People who point out racism in fandom are sometimes often called antis in the same way.  Because people are so (rightfully) upset about actual antis, calling someone an anti is an easy way of shutting down a discussion you don't want to have.  It's the same tactic (using a false accusation of something terrible) that antis use.

Beatrice Otter

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