Monday, July 3, 2017

LiveJournal's Mascot Returns With Artistic Rebellion...

Image description: Cartoon of an adult man with black hair, full beard, glasses
and a pencil stuck behind his ear. A speech bubble reads: "Hi! I’ m Ryan. A decade ago,
I worked with LiveJournal to create a comic based on their mascot Frank the Goat. When LJ
was sold to a russian company that I didn’t know how to get in touch with, it seemed like a good
place to end the comic. Over the years, I heard vague things about the site going on to ban political
& pro-lgbtq content but I didn’t really know the extent of what had happened until I heard the
latest episode of the Reply All podcast which alleges that moving the servers to Russia was part
of a violent, sustained campaign by the Russian government to silence and punish critics and
 journalists. While listening, I realized that since I had quit the comic myself, the contract
that allowed me to make frank comics had never actually been cancelled. Which means I have
the authority and login credentials to do this...
Over ten years ago, LiveJournal was the premier place to host online journals-- usually for spaces and accounts that were too personal or niche to be labled as blogs. Like many web properties run by nerds with goofy senses of humor, LiveJournal had a mascot: Frank the Goat. LiveJournal hired comics artist Ryan Estrada to write and draw a webcomic starring Frank the Goat that continued on for a few years before finally coming to an end in late 2008. In 2007, LiveJournal's parent company was sold to a Russian media group, SUP Media. Company operations were still based out of a California office, until 2016 when there was a sudden move of all of the site's servers to servers physically located in Russia. Not long afterwards, the terms of service for LiveJournal were updated to "comply with Russian law".

The new terms of service stated that all users are subject to Article 10.2 of the Federal Act of the Russian Federation No. 149, which dictates that blogs with more than 3000 daily visitors are classified as media outlets and may not be published anonymously, are responsible for the dissemination of unverified information, and are restricted from posting obscene language, or "extremist materials" and are subject to Russia's anti-gay laws. After Estrada listened to a Reply All podcast that put forth the case that SUP Media was doing this in order to help the Russian government crack down on reporters and critics of the government, he remembered that he still had the login credentials for the Frank the Goat Comic account. Even better, they still worked.

So he created and uploaded this comic to the official mascot comic account here, which as of this morning is still live on LiveJournal's site. You can listen to the Reply All podcast in question here.

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