Dreamwidth, brought to you by the head of the LiveJournal abuse team

Dreamwidth is an offshoot of LiveJournal that a lot of people moved to in search of a censorship-free blogging platform. A recent hagiographic biographical sketch of Denise Paolucci coincided with a posting from someone I know offering Dreamwidth invites, and it occurred to me that there are still a lot of people who don’t know why they should be wary of Dreamwidth. So, here we go, one more time.

Let’s start with the Dreamwidth Diversity Statement. It has received a lot of praise. It certainly sounds good:

Platitudes are cheap. We’ve all heard services say they’re committed to “diversity” and “tolerance” without ever getting specific, so here’s our stance on it […]

We support maximum freedom of creative expression, within the few restrictions we need to keep the service viable for other users. With servers in the US we’re obliged to follow US laws, but we’re serious about knowing and protecting your rights when it comes to free expression and privacy. We will never put a limit on your creativity just because it makes someone uncomfortable — even if that someone is us.

Stirring stuff. But if you read the Terms of Service they are practically the same as LiveJournal’s. What’s more, section XVII of the TOS says:

This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between us and you concerning your use of the Website.

That’s right; Dreamwidth explicitly state that their Diversity Statement, Guiding Principles and other promimently posted documents are not in any way binding on them. So that Diversity Statement is really just cheap feel-good platitudes, exactly the garbage that it says is cheap. The cynicism is breathtaking.

You might want to believe that the founders of Dreamwidth nevertheless believe in freedom of speech, and that even though they won’t be bound by their principles, they still plan to uphold them. Well, here’s a wonderful quote from Denise Paolucci, co-founder of Dreamwidth, which describes exactly how committed she is to freedom of speech:

“Freedom of speech” is a government concept, and isn’t applicable to LiveJournal as a privately-held company. […] As a privately-held company, LiveJournal can set any standards we want for the use of our service. […] If you do not agree with these rules, which are widely publicized, you should not keep a journal on LiveJournal.

Got that? Freedom of speech simply isn’t applicable to privately held companies like LiveJournal or Dreamwidth.  And if you don’t like that, Denise Paolucci politely invites you to fuck off.

Why did Paolucci make such comments? Simple. She was in charge of LiveJournal’s infamous Abuse team for five years. Curiously, she doesn’t mention this in her Dreamwidth staff profile. In fact, she gives a long list of jobs she performed, but doesn’t even mention the one she’s best known for: head of decency enforcement during the whole “nipplegate” mess. As user yonmei recalls:

Denise Paolucci ran LJ Abuse from 2003-2008, and – among a bunch of other horrible things – is responsible for the decision not to pursue people who were posting obscene pictures of women being tortured on my journal, because I had a default icon that showed a few pixels of areola on a nipple in a baby’s mouth.

She was also the person who banned me and deleted my journal because I posted public information; something similar happened to Alexander Lucard and to user yellow_finch, so it wasn’t an isolated incident.

Here’s a nice piece of doublethink from one of Denise Paolucci’s nipplegate e-mails:

We feel it’s important to strike a balance between the ideal of free expression and the rights of, for instance, a parent to prevent their child from seeing unsolicited material that the parent feels is non-age-appropriate or the right of an individual to be able to browse public LiveJournal spaces without being exposed to nudity or violence.


The application of this policy to icons depicting breastfeeding is not in any way intended to be a statement that breastfeeding is dirty, shameful, or obscene. We fully support our users’ right to make their own decisions regarding parenting choices and styles, and we appreciate the dedication of parents who have chosen to participate in breastfeeding activism and education.

So it’s not that breastfeeding is dirty, shameful or obscene, we just don’t want people seeing nudity and violence in public. We support your right to make your own parenting choices, we just think that other people’s parenting choices are more important.

Of course, Paolucci herself used a user icon showing a sports bra with visible nipple. Rules don’t apply when you’re the one enforcing them, after all.

The Dreamwidth Diversity Statement ends “Come dream with us”. If you believe what’s written in that document, you are indeed dreaming.