FetLife Is Not Safe for Users: silencing of rape survivors and gross violations of user privacy

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A new feature article over at the online magazine Sex and the 405 dives into the social and technical issues plaguing FetLife.com. A few choice excerpts, emphasis mine:

We are grateful to FetLife, which is why we feel it’s impossible to remain silent about the site’s inability to protect its own or enable them to help themselves.

[…]

FetLife’s idea of helping currently involves telling victims of abuse and rape to go to the police. […But g]oing to the authorities, in many cases, is not a solution that brings justice to the abused. Further, it disables the community from protecting itself against predators[…].

Conviction or it didn’t happen is the new pix or it didn’t happen.

[…]

As far as the FetLife culture of silence is concerned, coming forward about someone violating your consent is “disrespectful.” Victims, as a result, are effectively locked out of the one space they have come to feel safest, and — as the comments on any discussions about abuse in the community show — their failure to remain silent is rewarded only in victim-blame, shaming and ostracization.

[…]

FetLife takes great pride in the little walled garden they have created for kinksters to be themselves. […] Unfortunately, security measures on FetLife are as helpful as the suggestion that victims of abuse should stay silent until they get a conviction for their abusers. […] The truth is that it doesn’t matter how good your password is — anyone with an account can see your posts and comments on FetLife.

It’s important to point out here that it’s in FetLife’s [business] interest to convince users that this space is safe.

[…]

People who approach this conversation from the perspective that privacy on the internet is a myth and anyone who is too stupid to realize that putting a photo on a website may result in its dissemination is missing the point. FetLife actively works to create the illusion that the network is safe. [sic] Anyone who looks at the comments on Baku’s post about the “attack” will find more people who believe that they are safe to be their kinky selves now that FetLife has “blocked” [maymay’s] “tool” than people who seem to have an understanding of what maymay actually did. Neither Baku nor anyone else on the FetLife team has made any effort to correct them. It’s in FetLife’s commercial interest to make users feel safe and they do not appear to be in a hurry to educate them about the potential risks associated with posting photos and videos of themselves engaging in acts of sexual self-expression.

[…]

FetLife has grossly violated user privacy. […] That the site doesn’t take measures to protect user content and has shown incompetence (or negligence) in regard to user privacy, all the while prohibiting victims from warning others about predatory behavior, creates an environment where it is nearly impossible for members of the BDSM community to take care of themselves and one another. By enabling FetLife to continue espousing a code of silence, allowing the spinning self-created security issues as “attacks,” and not pointing out how disingenuous FetLife statements about safety are, we are allowing our community to become a breeding ground for exploitation.

Seriously. Read it. Tweet it.

Share the link. Spread the word. Be part of making tomorrow better than today.

UPDATE: Consider reading the followup, “Let’s get practical: Care about Internet privacy because it keeps your loved ones physically safer.”

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