Linking Permission January 22, 2021 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Is it good manners to ask permission before linking to a non-corporate social media account?

A post to images on twitter was recently deleted at the request of the creator. Is it common/ polite/the right thing to ask permission of the creator of works before posting them on the front page? In the past if I saw some good art being hosted by a company that can handle the load I wouldn't hesitate to link to it without asking permission. However if asking permission is the polite thing to do I'll do that in the future. [Actually social anxiety means I'll just never post such material but that is my hang up not the creator's.]
posted by Mitheral to Etiquette/Policy at 8:27 AM (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I don't think you technically did anything in the wrong; I think you just inadvertently hit on someone who's in a bit of an unusual situation themselves. Some online creators are getting a little extra-vigilant because there are some online t-shirt companies that steal creators' artwork, and so some online creators are on a little bit of a high-alert state as a result.

That said, I find that asking permission when in doubt is never a bad idea. About 95% of the time you'll be getting a reaction that's more like, "hey, wow, thanks! You'll be introducing me to people! Just as long as you give me credit that's cool!" and it'll be okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on January 22 [3 favorites]


I don't believe that it as Mitheral's post, just for clarification. There was also this post about No Man's Sky, where the author of one of the links later reached out to have it removed.
posted by sagc at 8:47 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth my sense is, Mefites already generally use pretty good common sense around this. There was the recent case where the subject of a post turned out not to want the attention so we took it down, but that's a very rare occurrence, so I think people are already applying good filters on whose stuff to link to vs who wouldn't want their stuff linked. (It's fine if people want to discuss this question, just laying out what I see as the current state of things.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:53 AM on January 22 [5 favorites]


If I'm posting an interesting article or blog post, I'll often link to the author's homepage or social media profile because I want them to get credit as well as the publication. The recent No Man's Sky incident is the only case for me where this has been a problem, and even then, the person in question was very understanding about the situation.

As LobsterMitten says, providing we're all considerate and prepared to take stuff down if necessary, the balance of benefit IMO leans toward giving people credit.
posted by adrianhon at 8:59 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


I'm the one who deleted the crows post. And in general my feeling is, if people are posting things publicly, it's fair game to link. But the creator of the twitter account was going through a really personally difficult time and it was clear that the link from MetaFilter was causing him distress, so I chose to err on the side of being deferential to his grief in the hope of not causing him harm.

The mefi poster did nothing wrong, it was just a one-off situation with weird timing. And the nice thing about MetaFilter, being a site that's so closely moderated, is that when something like that happens, we CAN just pull down the post. It's not like being retweeted by a major twitter account or shared widely on facebook or being written up in the NYTimes (or, back in the day, being slashdotted!), where the horses have firmly escaped the barn and the thing's too viral to pull down (and social media companies are careless with content). The strength of MetaFilter is that we quickly saw that the guy was in a tough place and we were able to say, "Whoops, we can remove our part in that." We didn't have to go through 30 layers of corporate decision-making or struggle to find a live person to respond to it; someone flagged it to let us know, the mod on duty and a couple of us who were around looked at it, briefly discussed it, and decided, "Yeah, let's pull it down."

And I again want to emphasize nobody did anything wrong! I think it was a good post for MetaFilter. There were unintended consequences, which sometimes happens, and we were able to step in to limit those. To me, it was an example of what's good and healthy about MetaFilter: That we aren't a remorseless algorithm of engagement but a community of human beings operating in good faith, who use human moderators to make human -- and hopefully humane -- decisions.

(And a community of human users who come to MetaTalk to check in with each other about the ethics of linking to people's personal projects, because all y'all care a lot about using this site in ethical ways!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:06 AM on January 22 [38 favorites]


Yes, to be clear I don't a specific pony post in this race. I was just looking for discussion on what the right thing to do in these cases.

In the old days when we carved bits on stone tablets to be distributed by pigeon it was a lot of effort to get something viewable by the public and the only downside to getting linked to by HardOCPSlashDot was your server falling over and pretty much no one would be offended or saddened by that. I've unexaminedly been stuck in that mode. It hadn't previously occurred to me that people would put something up on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr/Flickr or what ever and then be saddened, for whatever reason, by the traffic generated by a link to the original pages (rehosting/copyright infringement/theft being something completely different in the scope of this conversation).

If the exceptions either here or on the internet in general have moved on I'm OK with both the situation and the need to consult beforehand. It is just much different than what I'm used to.
posted by Mitheral at 9:07 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Yes, this seems like a situation that has distinct case-by-case nuances, but in general when someone makes a Twitter thread it seems like a reasonable assumption that they want it to be noticed by other people - Twitter even provides some affordances for if they don’t.

But yeah, if you’re unsure about the right thing to do, ask the person.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:46 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


No, we shouldn't ask permission to link to things that have been broadcast for public consumption.

Yes, we should be responsive to requests we get after the fact to modify/remove links, and use good judgement in deciding if to act on those requests.

(I feel like I should include a Kang and Kodos joke here.)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:49 AM on January 22 [20 favorites]


I don't think it's appropriate to ask permission to link to content in the public domain. It's really rare that it causes a problem, and having received such requests in a corporate capacity in the past, in the vast majority of cases the question itself would be seen as odd and so may not be answered..
posted by plonkee at 11:16 AM on January 22 [3 favorites]


It's an interesting thing thinking about dynamics here. To draw an analogy to Twitter, there's a range of (non-universal) norms around power dynamics there. Everything from "snitch-tagging" (i.e. if someone's making a point about someone but specifically didn't link them to avoid harassment, someone in the comments going @busybody, what do you have to say about this?) to audience mismatches (i.e. if someone with 100k followers quote-tweets someone with 10, even if only 1/100 people sees that and wants to comment, they're still getting deluged, there's a statistical likelihood of death threats, etc.), to "Main Character of Twitter" moments, positive and negative.

It feels like all of that and all of this ends up being in-progress/incomplete ways of figuring out "How do we do the thing we like (sharing neat things) without subjecting people to the harms that come with putting someone in a spotlight of thousands-to-millions of people?"

We've even had thread(s) here about distribution of people's words & how that can get away from the original context, with the PDFification of the Emotional Labor thread as a key example. Everything there is "in the public domain" (not to be confused with "is public domain"), but the rough consensus came down in favor of getting people's consent before republishing their comments. (and a general legal inclination, though law & internet norms around sharing are hardly caught up with each other, so it's no guarantee. And is currently ongoing, see: France & Australia)

I think the current setup is a reasonable one, as trying to come up with an ironclad set of rules would be foolhardy but humans-in-the-loop can smooth over a lot. But it's worth thinking through. Even if we can't command Slashdot-era "Hugs of Death" traffic, we can still be a bigger fish than people are used to dealing with.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:50 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


I realize this is a bit ancillary to the topic, but I think the crow poster should also get an apology and an expression of our sympathy, if they haven't gotten one. I think that should be part of the polite expectations around linking, to apologize if it upsets folks just living their life.

I expect one of the mods/staff already reached out to them and did so, but I haven't seen it mentioned and would like it confirmed.

I feel that an important part of the MeFi Community guidelines is not just trying to mitigate the harm done and step back, but apologizing for harm and owning what happened, regardless of intentions.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 5:19 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


The crow photographer has 11,000+ Twitter followers. I understand that this person was going through something and the MetaFilter post wasn't welcome, and I think removing the link was a nice thing to do. But there's nothing wrong with linking to something widely available on the internet, and I don't think the poster or anyone at MetaFilter did anything wrong. Respectfully, I don't think an apology is necessary and it might even just re-creep them out.
posted by oulipian at 5:29 PM on January 22 [28 favorites]


I left a comment on the crow photographer’s Twitter to let them know the thread had been deleted. I was one of the first commenters on the thread. I did so because I think mefi’s memory hole deletion style can be totally bewildering to outsiders and I know that a grieving person can begin to doubt their lived experiences so I wanted to tell them that yes, the thing happened and also btw it was a nice thread with no drama. No clue if a mod reached out separately or not. I don’t think anybody did anything wrong in that instance and it was a matter of bad timing.
posted by Mizu at 5:48 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]


"I expect one of the mods/staff already reached out to them and did so, but I haven't seen it mentioned and would like it confirmed."

I absolutely did not. They were clear they didn't want randos up in their DMs, and that they were dealing with grief and didn't want to be managing other people's stuff. A couple of mefis who follow them appear to have expressed sympathy to them and let them know about the deletion, and I appreciate that. I don't think intruding on their grief to talk about our processes as a website is remotely appropriate. I am totally happy to talk to them if they ever want to discuss it, but there is no way I am intruding.

And look, I'm a person who took a graduate course on funerals and who owns specific sympathy note stationery so I don't have to buy weird Hallmark sympathy cards or send a sympathy note on my regular, cheerful stationery. But it would be WILDLY inappropriate and intrusive to contact them. Other people's intense grief is not the right place for our atonement, especially when they've been clear that continued contact about it would do them harm.

If someone knows the crow photographer personally and discovers the crow photographer wants to talk to someone at MetaFilter at some future point when it will help rather than harm them, please give them my contact info and I will happily have that conversation. But I am not going to intrude on someone's grief, especially after they clearly told us to STOP THAT.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:27 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]


I don't think this weird edge case is useful for informing a general approach or policy wuthering regard to linking. The analogy to the emotional labour thread PDF is a bad one, as that republished, recontextualised the content. A link to the original content, in original context, does neither. In general if people don't want stuff viewed by the public, they won't make it public - doubly do for social media which makes explicit provisions for posts that aren't viewable to everyone on the Internet. If something is there, and you don't have to log in to anything to see it? You can generally assume it's fine to link to it (in its original context - don't be a dick and direct link an image, link the page it's on) and for the one-in-a-million situation where it isn't, the person who has an issue can contact mefi/the mod and get it resolved that way (we have proof that this works!)
posted by Dysk at 10:49 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]


I guess that given the current context it's to be expected that not everyone wants to go viral
posted by chavenet at 4:46 AM on January 23


In agreement with the sentiment above that this was an edge case that's a bit of a one-off.

The Metafilter post in question was good (and done in good faith), and the rationale for deletion was also good (and compassionate).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:56 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I meant something like "I'm on staff at Metafilter, I'm sorry this happened and intruded on your grief, I apologize on behalf of the website staff, we have deleted this post and won't allow it to be posted again." Sending a message like that would have been what I'd have done as a staff member, immediately after deleting the post.

I'm glad we agree that talking about site process would have been inappropriate, but that's not what I meant about owning what happened. I meant owning the harm. But that's a question of how to apologize well. The fact that staff feel an official apology isn't warranted at all is concerning.

I realize that grief and loss manifest in varied ways and no one response will always be appropriate, nor is there every really a perfect response when harm has been done. I don't know for sure if the creator in question would have preferred an official apology or not.

Speaking for myself though, I'd find a business quietly vanishing a post that brought me unwelcome attention without contacting me directly to apologize infuriating. I'll drop it though, since it's not exactly the topic of this meta.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 7:09 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Speaking for myself though, I'd find a business quietly vanishing a post that brought me unwelcome attention without contacting me directly to apologize infuriating.

Whereas if it were me, I'd not want to have to deal with the thing I don't want to deal with. It just disappearing and me not having to engage with it again would be perfect.

There is no right answer here. People are different, and we don't know anything about the person in question here, and that is as it should be, but as a result we can't make a particularly informed decision. Any way of approaching this is potentially ideal, potentially awful.
posted by Dysk at 9:57 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


(And not that it matters, I'm not somebody with special stationary or courses or anything like that, but I have worked as a gravedigger and sexton, and assisted in conducting many, many, funerals for both complete strangers and close family.)
posted by Dysk at 9:59 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


On a few occasions in this situation, I posted the publicly available link to MeFi AND messaged the author/creator letting them know a section of the internet was going to be talking about them. Most were happy for the info and eventually chimed in on the MeFi thread.

I believe MeFi is fairly generous in these situations, where the author often doesn't have to pay the $5 to join up, if they contact the mods and let them know what's up. Not an official mod though, so don't take that as gossip.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:38 AM on January 24


So I wrote the post in question. The outcome was exactly the opposite of what I'd intended. While I knew that the artist had recently experienced bereavement, they were still posting crow pictures at the usual rate. What I didn't realize is that they were using their very last spoon to do so, and the new attention that my post brought was unwelcome.

I sent an apology as a general Twitter update, but I think I've been blocked. From my account, it looks like the artist has gone silent. I won't be attempting a repost (as the mod suggested) but maybe if things improve for the artist, someone else could. Please don't tell me that you can see new posts from them, thanks. I'm feeling bad enough.

I was having an utterly shitty week — a very visible community project I've been a director of my whole life in Canada is being shut down due to obstruction by the commercial partner, and our community group looks like we'll have to wear the public blame. The crow pictures were about the only thing that was making me happy in January's dark. So I thought I'd share them and get cheered up a bit when others saw them too. I (should) know that the reception of a post is not about me, but to find it gone was an even lower point.

Thanks to the few mefites — especially Helsinki's newest arrival — for helping smooth this over for me.
posted by scruss at 7:50 AM on January 24 [21 favorites]


Hey, scruss, I just want to say I am sorry that you are having such a shitty week and that this was the topper. One great conceptualization that I read somewhere was that this virus period of time has basically sapped everyone of their emotional backup reserves, so that every crisis pushes us past our coping borders. I hope you have a chance to find some things that make you happy. Although Reddit has sometimes had cesspools, there's a couple of subreddits that habitually make me smile like Eyebleach, HumansBeingBros, AnimalsBeingBros, MadeMeSmile, UpliftingNews, etc. Maybe some of them can help you out for the meantime.
posted by metabaroque at 8:08 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


scruss, I really enjoyed that post as well. I’m sorry that it brought anyone grief, you included, because it was just delightful. Sometimes we just have bad luck. Also sorry to hear about your project; hope things improve soon!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:28 PM on January 28


it seems that the artist is back posting again, and ... tiny bébé geese pictures!
posted by scruss at 12:19 PM on February 3


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