Thursday, July 3, 2008

Silencing Dissension.

Last week this blog was locked by Blogger. The following message was provided:

Dear Blogger User,

This is a message from the Blogger team.

Your blog, at, has been identified as a potential spam blog. You will not be able to publish posts to your blog until we review your site and confirm that it is not a spam blog.


The Blogger Team

To unlock, a code had to be entered to request an editorial review from a live person, which took four days.

I also would like to preface that C4O's mandate is as follows...

We agree with Hillary Clinton, we support the progressive values she supports, and we share her dedication to making this nation better... That's why we support Barack Obama for President! :-)

The locking of the blog puzzled the group that posts there, and personally made me suspicious since C4O is the furthest thing from being spam. So I decided to investigate this a bit further. What I discovered was shocking and disturbing to be frank.

My investigation began with a Washington Post article that exposes that the Obama smear emails originated on Free Republic. No shocker there. Freepers have been leaders of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy since its inception and full of smears, slime and innuendoes, especially about the Clintons.

But after the article was published, a Freeper, charged that the WaPo reporter has exposed the identity of anonymous posters in the past, and the WaPo article also “exposed” ordinary people who dared to think the rumour was important, but who denied being involved in the spamming.

The author is quite paranoid about it:

The article Mosk wrote today purports to be about efforts to track down where the ‘Obama is a Muslim’ allegations began. However, it is actually a warning shot across the bow to opponents of Obama that they will be tracked down and exposed for speaking ill of the Obamessiah.

While it literally pains me to agree with a Freeper, is this what is going on? Shutting down free speech online? Finding the name and address of people who post anonymously on websites? Reporters harassing them and exposing them to ridicule? I am embarrassed to say that I have witnessed behaviour akin to this on 'progressive' blogs as well.

Which brings me back to C4O. It seems that there is a concerted effort amongst a group to shut down political criticism of Obama.

Blogger offers readers the opportunity to flag blogs as spam or complain about objectionable content. And apparently someone has been using this to shut down blogs that are perceived as critical to Obama.

Several sources, including Blogspasm report that several blogs that have been shut down by Google that are critical of Obama, and the suspicion is that Google is being manipulated to shut down the opposition.

Now no one could think that the Obama campaign is promoting such deeds, but when people attack and try to shut down sites critical of a political candidate - we all have to worry.

Is this really what some people have become, bullying and intimidation to fall in line with what is 'acceptable' discussion?


B6 said...

It's not a conspiracy.

It's an automated bot. There are false positives all the time. Knit blogs, cat blogs, blogs for Obama, blogs against Obama all get locked. It's been that way for well over a year now.

It's completely automated, and not the result of any group or individual.

Every time it happens to someone, they think that Blogger or someone is trying to silence their free speech. Go to the Blogger Google Group and search around you'll find plenty of other non-political blogs that get the same treatment. I've seen those articles you mention, just people that don't know how Blogger works making conspiracy theories from limited bits of information. It had nothing to do with the point of view this blog takes.

Newish blogs tend to be the most susceptible, but older blogs can/will get locked at times as well.

Anonymous said...

From Ben Smith:

Here's a bit of a cautionary tale on the under-rated power of those "report abuse" or "flag this blog" features that you see on websites (including this one) of all types.

Several anti-Obama, or pro-Clinton, blogs that run on Blogger -- Google's free blogging platform -- have been disabled after somebody complained -- falsely -- that they're spam.

It's a similar tactic to one that's been used on (also Google-owned) YouTube to make videos considered objectionable by various political wings harder to get at; and it's part of a broader, worrisome trend in which features designed to promote community control wind up permitting a form of censorship.

Google didn't respond to my email seeking comment, and I imagine that if the bloggers are persistent, the company will reactivate their accounts. But this would be a handy way to cripple an opponent's grassroots in the final days of a campaign, when a few hours lost can make a real difference, and while an Obama supporter seems to have used it this time, there's no reason others can't in the future.

There's no obvious solution -- community reporting of abuse is the best of imperfect systems. But it also lends itself to its own meta-abuse.

His post also has an update from Google/Blogger.

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