by JohnBaku 1 day ago
I have a lot to apologize for; I apologize for the cryptic announcement I made last Tuesday. I apologize for the deletion of 100s of groups and 1,000s of fetishes without any warning, let alone sufficient notice. I apologize for not making this announcement earlier and leaving everyone in the dark, and most importantly, I apologize for letting many of you down.
I wish we could have done things differently, but even upon reflection, I believe we did what we had to do to protect the community and FetLife with the information we had when we made each decision along the way.
Before making any decisions, we consulted with multiple parties. We consulted with the team, partners, financial institutions, the NCSF (National Coalition for Sexual Freedom), the FSC (Free Speech Coalition), lawyers, and anyone else we thought might have insight for us.
So, why did we make the announcement last Tuesday? Why did we remove some of the content we removed over the last 3-4 days? And, why didn't we delete some of the content a lot sooner?
Everything falls under one of three categories: financial risk, legal risk, and community risk.
Let's first talk quickly about the financial risk and get it out of the way because I don't want it to detract from the high priority issues i.e. the legal and community risks.
The Financial Risk
A merchant account is what allows us to process credit cards on FetLife. The ads you see on FetLife covers the cost of approximately 1/2 the cost of our servers and bandwidth - that's it.
Your support pays for the other half of the servers, plus the team that keeps FetLife up and running, lawyers, accountants, software, etc. So your support pays for the vast majority of FetLife's monthly expenses.
Hence, without a merchant account, FetLife runs at a loss every month - and we are not talking a couple of dollars a month, we are talking significant losses.
Last Tuesday we got a notice that one of our merchant accounts was shutting us down. One of the card companies contacted them directly and told the bank to stop processing for us. The bank asked for more information, but the only thing they could get from the card company was that part of it had to do with "blood, needles, and vampirism."
Like me, you are probably thinking, but they have to give you a good reason? No, no they don't. The only thing they have to do is protect their interests sadly.
Because we couldn't get any more information than that, we had to act quickly and preemptively protect our other merchant account by making changes to our content guidelines. But since we were very much in the dark, we didn't think it would be a good idea to go into any more detail than we did at that point.
Three days later, we get another notice, this time from our other merchant account. They got a similar call from the same card company, and they were asked to close our account. This time they were told it was for "Illegal or Immoral" reasons.
Both of the bank's compliance departments thought it was prudent to close our accounts down even though they were only contacted by one of the card brands so not to risk being fined from both card brands.
The banks maintain a shared list that contains all merchant account closings. The card brand also required the banks to add us to the list which will make it tough for us to ever get a merchant account again, at least for the foreseeable future.
Hence we can no longer process credit cards on FetLife and will most likely not be able to for a while.
The Legal Risk
Over the last five days, we've had the opportunity to speak to multiple organizations, each with part of the puzzle.
There are numerous things at play here:
A highly publicized rape case in Australia involving a member of the community;
An organization that participated in the anti-porn bill that wants to see sites like FetLife taken off the internet;
Talk of reviving the obscenity task force in the US;
The Digital Economy bill in the UK that's being debated currently;
BPjM in Germany; and
We've been one of the most liberal, if not the most liberal, adult site on the web which makes us the perfect target;
We can put our heads in the sand, but that is both naive and irresponsible. All of the above have real legal risks attached to them with potentially equally real consequences. Maybe not to you directly but it does to FetLife, the team behind FetLife, and myself.
The Community Risk
The one thing that bonds us all together is our love for the kinky community. Without the kinky community, without sites like FetLife, many of us would not have a place to call home, a place in which we are accepted and understood, and dare I say a place in which we feel free to be ourselves.
If we hope to win the war, if we want our society to be more accepting of us, then we can't give them a reason to vilify us. People always need someone to blame, and we need to stop making ourselves the easy target.
On what seems like a daily basis, we hear of another atrocious sex or hate crime committed against a fellow friend. And for every story we hear, there are tens of thousands we never hear about. As a community, we need to stop turning a blind eye.
One of the ways to do that is through defining a better list of guidelines that we live by as a community.
At first, it bothered me that we would have to tighten our rules because I felt I was letting people down. But after discussing potential changes with the NCSF, CFP, lawyers, and our merchant providers, I couldn't help but be excited for the community and FetLife's future.
Maybe I'm just a naive optimist, but I believe this is an opportunity for us to set the bar higher. These changes affect many of us, to one degree or another, but I think the sacrifices some of us will have to make will be worth it in the grand scheme of things.
Both FetLife and the NCSF believe that the proposed changes will give us the opportunity to flourish as a community while better protecting ourselves from outside attack.
With the help of the NCSF, lawyers, partners, and merchant providers, we came up with the following pillars that will make up our guidelines:
Nothing non-consensual (abduction, rape, etc.)
Nothing that impairs consent (drugs, alcohol, etc.)
No permanent or lasting damage (snuff, lacerations, deep cutting, etc.)
No hate speech (Nazi roleplay, race play, etc.)
Nothing that falls under obscenity (incest, etc. )
These guidelines aren’t intended to be a negative comment against your kink or your fantasies. Some things we believe can be done ethically, like CNC or hypnosis, but they can also be considered nonconsensual in a legal context, and we have to take into account the opinions of the authorities and merchant accounts as well to not only survive but thrive as a community.
Non-Consensual Deletion of Content from FetLife
Why did we act without first announcing changes and without first notifying anyone who would be affected? I know many of you might not believe me when I say this, but it was for our protection.
Yes, it was mainly for FetLife's and my protection, and we had to act swiftly. One could easily argue that we didn't move swift enough and that I shouldn't even make this post because something in it might incriminate FetLife or me.
It's always been a delicate balancing act. We try our best to balance the needs of individual members, the community as a whole, the team, and FetLife itself.
Everyone's needs are not always balanced equally. Historically we've sided more with individual members needs, but what we've learned from recent events is that we need to start putting more weight on the safety of the community, FetLife, and the team behind FetLife - including my personal safety.
We are still going through FetLife to see if anything else needs to be removed or cleaned up. While going through this exercise, we are using the different situations we encounter to help us better define where we need to draw a line.
We hope to be able to publish our new content guidelines shortly as well as implement changes to caretaking so that we don't ever find ourselves in a similar situation again.
After that, we need to work to repair any relationships we might have ruined with members both inside and outside the community.
Why don't you start a bank? - @-Antoine-
All banks have to adhere to the card companies' rules, and if they don't they can be fined, or even worse, lose their ability to process credit cards. Restrictions are placed by the card companies globally and not at the local level.
Can you move those parts of your operation under attack elsewhere? - @Marquis-de-Toot
Let's say we move our servers to the newly formed country of Fetopia. The US, UK, Australia, Germany, etc. can still make it difficult for people within their countries' borders to access FetLife. I don't think we would do the community a favor by making FetLife harder to access.
Who has the best Montreal smoked meat? - @GE9X
I don't know; I am a vegetarian, I only eat meat.
Why haven't you embraced Bitcoin to get away from the restrictions of the banks / credit card companies? - @Eibon
We used to accept bitcoins through Coinbase. They dropped us a year ago because we are a kinky site. No joke.
If a Bitcoin site wants to accept credit cards, then they have to adhere to rules set forth by the credit card companies.
Yes, there are other options, and we are going to look into them, but options like Bitcoin are a nice to have and not currently a viable replacement for being able to accept credit and debit cards on FetLife, no matter how much one might want to believe otherwise.
When we offered Bitcoin as an option, it was responsible for less than 0.1% of our daily transactions.
What can we do to help? What should we not do? - @JoanArk
Thank you for asking. I know it's hard, but I would ask the community to be patient. We need to find it in ourselves, especially at times like these, to come together as a community and be empathetic and non-judgemental.
Will we be getting back the option to create new groups and fetishes? When?- @AmgineBP
Yes, after we've implemented new processes to help better moderate the creation of new groups and fetishes.
As a group owner/moderator, it would be nice to have someone like yourself give us an "official" list of banned words and topic. - @__Eva
It's important to remember that context is king. We will be able to give you a list of forbidden topics, but a complete list of words is more difficult because in many cases it's important to take into consideration the context in which a word is used.
Why should users invest in building content and discussion groups on fetlife when that content could be removed without warning? - @tkmfdm
I'm confident that a well-intentioned and active group leader that is armed with well documented and maintained guidelines from us will rarely run into any issues.
It's when someone tries to circumvent our rules or take a hands-off approach to group leadership that they risk running into any problems.
Is there any danger of us losing Fetlife? - @CurvyBlonde93
I believe that if we didn't make any of the changes mentioned above, that there was a real and significant risk of losing FetLife. If that weren't the case, we would have never taken such drastic measures.
With the implementation of our new guidelines and strict adherence to them, we don't foresee any issues.
Why are advertisements for hypnosis okay, but the groups around said kink are not? - @spacekingbignuts
There is no shiny magic button that we can press where everything is removed and all at the same time. It's no longer okay, and will be dealt with in time like everything else that has been missed.
Is it England's fault? - @arjguaina
Everyone knows it's always the Englishes fault, lad! :-p
My nickname is based on a song and has nothing to do with suicide. Can I have my fetishes back?! - @Suicide__Blonde
In cases like this, we have to balance the risk to reward. Once we are in a healthier position, we can re-review situations like this on a case by case basis with the right parties and make a well-educated decision.
Will screen names be deleted? - @babygirlforyou2
We've removed 100s of profiles over the last couple of days, but in each case, the account was inactive, or the nickname or content in the profile was egregious.
If a member is an active and positive contributing member of the community, but we need to ask them to change their nickname, we will ask them nicely.
Is there any way that we, the community, can help you? - @mojopin
If anyone ever come across something you are not sure is against our new guidelines, please don't take it upon yourself to contact the OP, or worse, attack another member for posting it.
Please just click report the content and we will look into it ASAP.
Who can we petition? - @Marquis-de-Toot
Who do we need to contact/pressure/harass to combat this? Politicians? CC Companies? Please name names, and be specific. - @Alexa_DeLarge
I don't recommend we petition anyone at this point. I think the right strategy is to get our house in order, wait a little bit, and then partner with organizations like the NCSF and FSC.
To learn more about, and support the NCSF, please visit their site here.
How are you doing, John? - said no one ever
Other than pooping blood you mean? :-)
It's tough for everyone here at FetLife HQ, but I have to say I'm very lucky to work with such a strong, smart, selfless, and well-intentioned group of people here at FetLife.
I've let a lot of people down: individual members of the community, the community as a whole, the team behind FetLife, and my family. It fucking hurts!
I'm driven to do the right thing, and I hope for the most part I've been making the right decisions based on the information accessible to me at that time.
Sometimes I have to make quick decisions while everyone else not privy to all the constraints and information have all the time in the world to pass judgment. One of my favorite quotes: the less you know, the easier it is to pass judgment. I can't remember where I read or heard it, but one I always think about before passing judgment on other people.
At the end of the day, people are rightfully hurt by what's transpired over the last week on FetLife, and the buck stops here. It's my fault and nobody else's. I am not going to blame it on anyone else nor should you.
P.S. I've seen some things posted in protest on FetLife that are against our updated content guidelines. I understand why you felt the need to post what you posted, but I hope that after reading this, you will remove it under your volition.