The backstory is that LiveJournal has introduced advertising in the form of “sponsored communities” with third party identity tracking.
To quote the LiveJournal “contract” back in 2004:
It may be because it’s one of our biggest pet peeves, or it may be because they don’t garner a lot of money, but nonetheless, we promise to never offer advertising space in our service or on our pages.
The most recent terms of service are slightly different:
You understand and agree that some or all of the Service may include advertisements and that these advertisements are necessary for LiveJournal to provide the Service. You also understand and agree that you will not obscure any advertisements from general view via HTML/CSS or any other means. By using the Service, you agree that LiveJournal has the right to run such advertisements with or without prior notice, and without recompense to you or any other user.
Well, we’ve established how much a written promise from SixApart/LiveJournal is worth. The new advertising pages weren’t announced in the news to users, of course; they were quietly trailed in the community devoted to LJ’s business decisions.
Something else wasn’t mentioned. In addition, it appears that the “communities” are being seeded with positive “buzz” from user accounts set up specifically for the purpose. And when insomnia (aka Mark Kraft) did a little trivial investigation, he discovered that one of the people running the new “communities” was a SixApart employee with a brand new account, rather than a regular user. In other words, it appears that unlike regular communities, the new sponsored “communities” are to be carefully moderated strictly by Six Apart employees, doubtless to ensure that no pesky free speech will upset the advertisers.
In fact, perhaps in reaction to the latest round of criticism, at least one of the new viral marketing pseudo-communities is locked down tight so you can’t even join it without asking a Six Apart staffer for permission.