Now just imagine Blogger was the FEC

posted at 2:23 pm on June 30, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Carissa Snedeker could be excused in thinking that she should have no problems in expressing her political views in the blogosphere.   The Democrat had created Blue Lyon a few years ago, but had recently begun blogging about her membership in a growing group of Hillary Clinton supporters who didn’t yet support Barack Obama.  Much to her surprise, when she attempted to log into her account, Blogger — run now by Google — had locked her out, as Simon Owens reports at Bloggasm:

“At first I thought it was just this random thing with Blogger’s spam bots,” she told me in a phone interview. “I thought that perhaps in their looking across the blogger universe, that I got accidentally flagged somehow. Stuff like that happens.”

But a short time later Snedeker received an email from another blogger claiming that a number of anti-Obama blogs had been “hacked” that same night. After some digging it became apparent that several Blogspot accounts had been shut down because of similar spam issues, and nearly all of them had three things in common: Most were pro-Hillary Clinton blogs, all were anti-Barack Obama, and several were listed on justsaynodeal.com, an anti-Obama website.

A “Flag Blog” link sits at the very top of every free Blogspot account. If a person finds objectionable content on a Blogspot site or suspects it’s publishing spam, he or she can click on the link and it will send a notice to Google requesting “human review.”

I spoke to several of the bloggers who had accounts locked and every single one was convinced that it was Obama supporters who had flagged the blogs in some kind of concerted effort to silence them. But when I asked for specific evidence of this, most simply pointed out that only anti-Obama blogs were targeted — a fact that is certainly suspicious but not especially conclusive.

One would think that Google/Blogger would take care of its blogger customers better than this, but that would require an expectation of Google hiring people who know what they’re doing. A quick read of Blue Lyon shows that it’s obviously not a spam blog, but apparently no one at Google thought to check out the blog before they locked out Snedeker.  The lesson here is simple: if you care about free speech, don’t get a free blog from Blogger.

There are a couple of other lessons here as well.  If Snedeker, GeekLove, and the others experiencing the lockout are correct, some Barack Obama supporters have organized to shut down blog sites.  I seriously doubt that the Obama campaign would be stupid enough to get involved in such an effort, but it does say something about his supporters.   Filing false complaints to harass critics is close to dirty tricks, and going after free speech shows that to be a virtue that is at best underappreciated by the people involved in these attacks.

Finally, I’d like to recall a few years ago when the federal courts demanded that the Federal Election Commission take action to apply the BCRA to the Internet.  A bipartisan coalition of bloggers, including myself, warned that even modest regulations that had sanctions against Internet writers could create a monstrous regulatory hurdle — one that could get invoked precisely by the same kind of specious and malicious complaints that Blogger received.  Instead of just taking a few days to get the sites back, though, complaints to the FEC would have required us to hire lawyers and spend months to clear our names.

It doesn’t take much to attack free speech.  All it requires is a regulatory mechanism manned by clueless bureaucrats, triggered by people who don’t value free political speech.  Thankfully, that’s limited to Blogger …. for the moment.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

A quick read of Blue Lyon shows that it’s obviously not a spam blog, but apparently no one at Google thought to check out the blog before they locked out Snedeker.

I’m sure it’s automated. I think you’re being too hard on Google… blame the immature idiots who support Obama.

DaveS on June 30, 2008 at 2:32 PM

Ahh, the digital brownshirts strike again.
I like how its always the sites the elites disfavor that are affected by this kind of stuff.

Iblis on June 30, 2008 at 2:33 PM

Addendum: Political Byline would like a little help with the necessary fees to move off of Blogger, for obvious reasons.

Why not move his blog to Townhall? Free, people will follow….etc.

upinak on June 30, 2008 at 2:34 PM

I’m sure it’s automated.

If a person finds objectionable content on a Blogspot site or suspects it’s publishing spam, he or she can click on the link and it will send a notice to Google requesting “human review.”

Doesn’t sound automated to me.

wiserbud on June 30, 2008 at 2:35 PM

First of all, as far as I can tell, they received notice that their sites were being reviewed and temporarily locked, not shut down. These people should wait to hear back from Google before spinning conspiracy theories. The fact that other users can flag a Blogger site is well known, and those who publish controversial information (including politics) should expect some inconvenience because of it.

Big S on June 30, 2008 at 2:37 PM

Just for the good old fashioned heck of it, I went on to Google and just keyed in a search under “The Messiah” Five hits in, there is a site proclaiming B.O. as the Messiah. (Don’t believe me? Try it yourself). Funny thing is that if you try this exact same thing on Yahoo, you don’t even get this site on the first page of hits!

pilamaye on June 30, 2008 at 2:38 PM

I seriously doubt that the Obama campaign would be stupid enough to get involved in such an effort

Why are conservatives falling for the “barry’s really a good guy but some of his followers are crazy” baloney. Racists, criminals and dirty tricksters seem to have been attached to barry since he came into public life. Where there is smoke, there is fire. His followers aren’t running for president, he is. Keep giving him a pass and it eats into the credibility of all other arguements against him.

peacenprosperity on June 30, 2008 at 2:39 PM

they received notice that their sites were being reviewed and temporarily locked, not shut down

All the other similarities are just coincidence?

peacenprosperity on June 30, 2008 at 2:40 PM

My personal blog is on Blogger. I often like to browse the other blogs in the network, and occasionally I’ll come across one that is nothing but spam or pr0n. I’ll flag those, and note the web address. I’ve had to flag a few of them several times before they’ve disappeared. I guess I’m trying to say I think it takes more than one flag to suspend a blogger account. If this is the case, I’d believe that these political blogs are being targeted.

On the other hand, it is free, and with certain aspects of Blogger, you get what you pay for.

Anna on June 30, 2008 at 2:45 PM

To all the Hillary supporters – Still think it is all a VRWC (Vast Right Wing Conspiracy)?
I was listening to a show last night on BTR (Blog Talk Radio) sponsored by members of the PUMA’s who were really fired up against the Obama camp. They even went so far as to organize a McCain fundraiser requesting a minimum donation of $5.
The reason McCain doesn’t need conservatives is because for right now he has a lot of the Hillary supporters.
Ain’t life grand?
Anything on the web can be gamed whether it is Digg or polls with Ron Paul in them, so this shouldn’t be too surprising since it works off the same principle as many other sites. Readers evaluate and madness ensues.

Just A Grunt on June 30, 2008 at 2:46 PM

Well, the IPs of the people who got the blogs locked out should have been recorded. But, the chance of google releasing that information is a as likely as them honoring Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, etc.

rbb on June 30, 2008 at 2:47 PM

At someone’s suggestion here, I removed the navbar (with the flag blog link) from my site.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on June 30, 2008 at 2:47 PM

Filing false complaints to harass critics is close to dirty tricks…

Close to? As in, hitting someone in the back of the head with a baseball bat is “close to” violence?

ynot4tony2 on June 30, 2008 at 2:51 PM

At someone’s suggestion here, I removed the navbar (with the flag blog link) from my site.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on June 30, 2008 at 2:47 PM

I didn’t know you could do that. Would you please enlighten me? I’d be much obliged.

Anna on June 30, 2008 at 2:52 PM

The whole automatically removed excuse is bull. People have been attempting to get terror-sympathizing and even terrorist propoganda outlet blogs removed from Blogspot for quite a while. No matter how many people hit the report blog on those, many of the reported sites remain.

amerpundit on June 30, 2008 at 2:53 PM

Consider it a “Nudge.”

This is the product of not opposing “choice architecture.”

Hillary supporters should support BO, they just don’t know it yet.

Angry Dumbo on June 30, 2008 at 2:53 PM

If you’re going to tar Google over this, tar them over lazy code, not outright malice.

This has to be an automated process run using an algorithim. For example, if a certain number of people from disparate sources mark a blog as “spam” it triggers an event that requires either the admins or another algorithim to take take a closer look at the blog. The bar for triggering the temporary lockout is probably just set too low.

I just can’t see a company like Google allocating staff time to search out and censor anti-Obama blogs. I can see his holiness’ followers doing it though. They’re crazy enough.

TheUnrepentantGeek on June 30, 2008 at 2:54 PM

Anna on June 30, 2008 at 2:52 PM

Here’s one version.

You can find a bunch of others with a simple Google search.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on June 30, 2008 at 2:55 PM

I’m sure it’s automated. I think you’re being too hard on Google… blame the immature idiots who support Obama.

DaveS on June 30, 2008 at 2:32 PM

So, we should let Google off the hook for presumptively censoring people? A company who’s motto is, “Don’t be evil?” Wouldn’t it make more sense to not presumptively censor and at least wait until a human can confirm it? “Don’t be evil” my ass.

TheBigOldDog on June 30, 2008 at 2:57 PM

Just for the good old fashioned heck of it, I went on to Google and just keyed in a search under “The Messiah” Five hits in, there is a site proclaiming B.O. as the Messiah. (Don’t believe me? Try it yourself). Funny thing is that if you try this exact same thing on Yahoo, you don’t even get this site on the first page of hits!

I just did that. Funny as heck, it was.

As for this, I dunno. Sounds like a bunch of Obama cultists who need a job or a girlfriend or something being annoying. Step away from the computer and the bong, dude. :)

mjk on June 30, 2008 at 2:57 PM

You can find a bunch of others with a simple Google search.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on June 30, 2008 at 2:55 PM

I should have known Google would have answered me too, but I am trying to reduce my dependance on it. It’s like an addiction, without the cushy rehab to fall back on.

Thank you, though. : )

Anna on June 30, 2008 at 2:57 PM

Yeah, as Jawa points out, Blogspot manages to continue hosting blogs that call for jihad.

amerpundit on June 30, 2008 at 2:57 PM

You know if a pro-McCain site tried this with a pro-Obama site – the O-bots would be all over this screaming repression, crying about their trampled rights and in general being the massive crybabies they are.

But I guess what’s good for the goose and all – doesn’t apply to the O-bots.

KrisinNE on June 30, 2008 at 3:03 PM

amerpundit on June 30, 2008 at 2:53 PM

The whole automatically removed excuse is bull. People have been attempting to get terror-sympathizing and even terrorist propoganda outlet blogs removed from Blogspot for quite a while. No matter how many people hit the report blog on those, many of the reported sites remain.

You haven’t convinced me. Those who would want to remove terrorist propoganda blogs are normal people like us who have lives. Those who would want to remove an anti-Obama blog are spiteful little trolls with all the free time and computer bot skills necessary to make it happen.

Don’t believe me? Look at Ron Paul’s success in on-line polls. Need more proof? The sensation of google-bombing “miserable failure”. Still not enough? Recall Hank the Drunk Angry Dwarf winning the People magazine Most Beautiful People poll in 1988. Still not enough? Jesse Camp! Sanjaya!

‘Nuff said.

ynot4tony2 on June 30, 2008 at 3:09 PM

ynot4tony2 on June 30, 2008 at 3:09 PM

Maybe, but..

The terror websites were still reported by many of us, only for them to remain online. Google’s system is obviously flawed if reporting of an anti-Obama website gets automatic suspension, but terror websites are allowed to remain.

amerpundit on June 30, 2008 at 3:12 PM

…but it does say something about his supporters

Yea. They’re Democrats.

They agree with free speech as long as they agree with the speech.

BacaDog on June 30, 2008 at 3:21 PM

When facism comes to America, it’ll be wearing Birkenstock sandals and driving a Prius….

Wyznowski on June 30, 2008 at 3:34 PM

amerpundit on June 30, 2008 at 3:12 PM

The terror websites were still reported by many of us, only for them to remain online. Google’s system is obviously flawed if reporting of an anti-Obama website gets automatic suspension, but terror websites are allowed to remain.

I think you missed my point. How many of us set up automated bots with IP masks to repeatedly pound the flagging options in attempt to fool the host that a far, far greater number of individuals flagged the blogs?

Can’t get the following out of my head now…

Flag the blogs that flog Obama
Blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah.
Ignore the ones that praise Osama.
Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb bomb bomb.

Yes, I get loopy sometimes.

ynot4tony2 on June 30, 2008 at 3:53 PM

How many of us set up automated bots with IP masks to repeatedly pound the flagging options in attempt to fool the host that a far, far greater number of individuals flagged the blogs?

That’s a good question for Gallup to ask Americans or any people from a nation-state in general.

If you could vote more than once, would you still only vote once?

gabriel sutherland on June 30, 2008 at 4:41 PM

“Its automated. Its the algorithm’s fault”.

Sorry, those excuses don’t cut it. I don’t accept that excuse from any company. People wrote the specs for the software (determined the policy), people wrote the software, people tested the software, and people approved use of the software. I don’t see anybody saying the software isn’t doing exactly what the decision makers want it to do. Thus its those peoples’ fault, not the software or computer’s fault.

In this case, the blogs are flagged for a human to review. Is it too much to ask that a human actually review them before they’re blocked? Even from an administrative standpoint it seems like that would be cheaper than blocking the site, reviewing the site, then unblocking if its OK. Not to mention the affect this has on the “customers”.

taznar on June 30, 2008 at 4:57 PM

If you upload your blog via FTP (as I do) to your own domain, you don’t get the Blogger “Flag”.

LL

Lady Logician on June 30, 2008 at 7:16 PM