Flickr mobs

An interesting story has panned out at Flickr, which involves the stealing of a independent artist’s image by an agency, a flickr comment posted by the artist calling fans to send letters to the agency, the censoring of that comment by Flickr, culminating in the world calling Yahoo! Flickr the biggest known evil dictator censorship company since the prehistoric times. Here’s my view, sent as a letter to the artist:

——
Dear Rebekka,

Here’s something you wrote at the end of your letter:

So i encourage everyone that has been displaying similar landscape photos on flickr to look at their site and see if they see something suspicious.
It would also be pretty cool if as many people as possible would send them angry letters, (address them to info@only-dreemin.com ) but that’s just if you feel like it;)”

The first line is ok. The second line, you are actively calling for a mob to do wrong things. And if you look at reddit.com and digg.com, this is exactly what they are doing. In other words, that last line of yours has spurted a mob of angry people to send death threats to a company. Thousands of blog articles now are talking about how Flickr is a censoring company, how Yahoo sucks. Competitors with similar sounding names are voicing attacks to market their own product. And the funny thing is that most of these articles and opinions are either baseless or are completely false. And they were instigated by you. Using flickr.

Sending death threats to a company is wrong, even if they are caught stealing. The right way is to report them to the police.

However, this is not what your fans did. Furthermore, they did it based on your call for arms. And this sentence of yours was hosted at Flickr. In turn, this means that Flickr supports that sentence, that they are all in favor of harassing and sending angry letters.

While I can see that you are a talented photographer, and that it was very wrong to steal, you seem to have (knowingly or unknowingly) used your fame to fire a mob war. Note that you have used Flickr as your platform, and that they are just as responsible for letting you do this as you are.

Which is wrong — Flickr is a photo sharing site. It is not a union for photographers or a place to launch mob wars. All they did was stand by their own convictions of being a photo hosting site, and not your personal podium for war mongering.

Prior to this, I have NEVER heard of any censorship or willful harm done by Flickr to anybody. You seem to be an odd case, and I think it is in some part, if not all, due to your inciting messages which were taken too seriously by the internet.

I think it would be advisable to think about your actions in conjunction with Flickr’s actions, and then form an opinion on the service.

Also, I think you owe the crowds you have infuriated a message, telling them what you think of flickr, since they are right now burning down a beautiful community.

Regards,
Arnab

Note: I am an infrequent flickr user, and have been a user of their services since Ludicorp’s Game Never Ending times. I have very I am in no way associated or sympathize with any of the parties involved, and only care for the reduction of mob mentality on the internet. Hope you understand me and have read all of my email.
——

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About the author:

Arnab Nandi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University. You can read more about him here.


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