IMPEACH GEORGE BUSH!! The Meaning of Blogger's Flag: Blogger is not a business like other businesses

Sunday

Blogger is not a business like other businesses

If this is your first visit, please note that this whole blog -- not just this single post -- is about overt and covert Blogger censorship. Please first take a look at the previous posts and comments, and then come back to this post. And please read the posts before making any judgments about the overall argument of this blog. (The previous posts are much shorter than this one.)

In this post, I want to try to draw out the wider implications of the issues raised in this blog so far, as well as their connections to some other important issues.

Please note that although in the current blog I have talked about the de-indexing of my main blog, the de-indexing of that blog was not the reason I put the current blog together. As Ross Perot (the third-party candidate in a couple of US presidential elections) used to say, "It's not about me." My only concern is that censorship has raised its ugly head. In any case, neither that blog nor this blog is at the moment subject to de-indexing. So I have no personal beef with Blogger whatsoever.

To people who say Blogger's flag is a good thing, because it helps them fight spam and porn sites and so on, I would say: (1) as I have explained in this blog, Blogger has developed specific tools to fight spam; the flag has nothing to do with spam; and (2) the best way to fight porn sites is to send your complaint directly to support@blogger.com .

In early August I came to the conclusion, possibly wrongly, that Blogger had de-indexed my main blog. I didn't do or say anything about it just then, because it didn't matter. There were thousands of blogs far better than mine out there, and the apparent de-indexing of my blog wasn't important.

But then Blogger's flag thing came along, which seemed to be Blogger's way of "contracting out" and, more significantly, normalizing the suppression of individual blogs. As I interpreted it, people's hatred of spam had made Blogger bold enough to openly propose censorship. That's when I got involved, because it was no longer just about me. It had become a political issue.

As I want to keep this discussion "bipartisan," I won't get into the parallels with the general decline in civil rights in the last few years and the declared reasons for them. I will just say that I feel the general political environment is what has emboldened Blogger (and many other larger and smaller organizations) to commit such breaches of common law, and possibly of statutory law. Many people have become so obsessed with protecting "their own" that they have grown careless of the social goods that are being taking taken away from them.

We simply do not know how many non-spam and non-porn blogs had already been de-indexed as objectionable prior to the flag's introduction. Blogger has provided no information on this issue, other than general declarations of principle.

I am sure the average blogger is as opposed to censorship of ideas as I am. And I think the main reason that people haven't flooded Blogger with complaints about the "flag," apart from the usual apathy caused by a sense of disempowerment, is that people think the flag has something to do with spam/porn. A lot of people have complained, but apparently not enough of them, as shown by the fact that the flag is still there.
I am at least as opposed to spam and porn blogs as the next person. But, as I have explained several times in the other posts, this is not primarily about spam. Blogger has developed much more effective tools to fight spam. The flag is about "objectionable content," which can include anything whatsoever.

I have stated as follows:

Google's Blogger is simply a service-provider. In the same way that the electricity company has no right to tell you and me what to do with the electricity it provides, Blogger has no similar right either. Some commenters have pointed out that Blogger is a free service, and so we have no rights against it. But there is no such thing as a free service (unless it is provided by a charity). For example, some newspapers are distributed free of charge in order to be able to collect advertising revenue. Blogger is one of the many ways for the Google conglomerate to make a name for itself and sell other products and services through that reputation. It is not free.

In their comments, some of this blog's readers have made various objections to the above position, including the following two:

1 "Blogger owns the blogs even if you write them. Blogger doesn't have to justify what blogs it includes or doesn't in its traffic generating mechanisms. Only government censorship (at least in the USA) is unconstitutional. Otherwise, freedom of the press belongs to those who own the presses. And, here, Blogger owns the press we're all using. It can make whatever rules it wants about what appears here."

2 "Well, I agree that the writing on our blogs doesn't belong to Blogger/Google, but to us. However, the servers where the blogs live do not belong to us, but to Blogger/Google. Google has allowed people, including us, to share our ideas with the world (at no cost to us beyond our labors). They clearly believe they receive value in return for doing this, and we're happy with the arrangement as well. Now if either party to this arrangement wants to end it, they have the right to do so. This is the way it should be. We have no right to force Google to continue to host our writings, no matter how wonderful we think they are. Google has no right to force us to keep our work there, either, if we decide to move it or delete it entirely. You seem to believe that Google has some permanent obligation to host our blogs even if it decides doing so is harmful to its interests. I have some server space available through my ISP. If I let you put your blog there and later change my mind, have I lost the rights to that space to you? If I want to change my ISP do I have to keep this one, too, so I can keep hosting your blog? If I were hosting your blog as a business instead of as a friend, why would that be different?"

I appreciate these thoughtful objections, but they leave me unconvinced, perhaps because our starting points are different. I never take the rights that powerful groups in society have arrogated to themselves for granted. Of course, not everyone sees things that way.

As to the first objection, I would say Blogger and blogging are not a part of the "free press," and therefore arguments based on the meaning and extent of freedom of the press are irrelevant here. When you buy a newspaper or watch a TV program, you are aware that their content is dictated by their owners. They are the ones who hire and pay the writers, and who can dictate what is acceptable or not acceptable within their organization. This is not something peculiar to the press. Rather, it is simply a part of the usual lack of democracy within any capitalist business enterprise. When we accept employment, we implicitly give up certain rights and freedoms that we (theoretically) enjoy as citizens of a democratic society. The blogging community at large are not, however, employees of Google or Blogger, and have not given up such freedoms. In other words, Blogger has created the appearance of providing a forum for our opinions that is free of the usual undemocratic constraints within a capitalist enterprise. If Blogger fails to deliver such a forum, it can legitimately be accused of misrepresentation.

Another aspect of the issue is brought up by the second objection above, which compares the relationship between blog writers and Blogger to (1) person A providing some space to person B for person B's website, and then taking it back, and (2) an Internet service provider (ISP) selling space and then, in its sole discretion, taking it back. The commenter suggests that the two cases are parallel. I don't think they are. Individual rights are not the same as civil rights. That is to say, I agree that no conditions can be attached to person A in case number (1) taking his/her space back, unless otherwise provided for in a contract. The same does not apply to case number (2), because an ISP can only take the space back if the person using it has breached some term of the contract, or if the ISP has been authorized by a court decision to suspend the service, or else due to circumstances beyond the ISP's control, such as bankruptcy. Otherwise, the ISP cannot suspend the service, and if it does, it would potentially be subject to legal action.

In any case, the example of the ISP is not really relevant to the current case, because Blogger is not an ISP. Blogger is a minor part of the Google empire. It is in the business of providing a soap box for people, that is, a place where people can share their ideas, opinions, and interests. The entire emphasis is on its not being a business arrangement. The spam and splog (spam blog) problem is a good illustration of this. The primary reason that splogs are seen as illegitimate is that they are purely and simply about making money. They have nothing to do with sharing ideas, opinions, and interests. Had Blogger been an ISP, though, it would have had no problem with any kind of business site (with the possible exception of pornographic sites and so on). So it is pretty clear that Blogger is not an ISP.

But to get back to the "flag." The flag is based on the assumption that Blogger's staff are qualified to judge what is objectionable. That is very much open to question. But it is also based on the assumption that we, that is, the blog readers, are qualified to judge what is objectionable. Most of us agree, at an abstract level, that pornography and violence are objectionable. But are we qualified to distinguish between pornography and artistic expression? Are we qualified to distinguish between gratuitous depictions of violence, on one hand, and such depictions in the form of political statements, on the other? We are all opposed to spam, but do we all know exactly what spam is? If you think you do, take a look at this blog that I came across by accident today: http://www.sharebadshah.blogspot.com/ . It has all the usual hallmarks of a spam blog, but when you take a closer look, it turns out to be someone's fairly legitimate business-oriented blog. Are all blogs with business content objectionable? Then perhaps all the thousands of blogs that carry ads should be banned as well. Not only are we, as blog readers, unqualified to judge what is and what is not objectionable, but Blogger's staff themselves need guidelines that specify exactly what sort of thing they can de-index or ban.

When a small business becomes a big business, its actions and decisions move from the private realm into the public realm. As far as I know, Google's Blogger is now the largest provider of blogging services. A great deal of responsibility that has nothing to do with purely business decisions goes along with that position. Blogging has allowed vox populi to be heard fearlessly and without censorship for the very first time in history. Also, placing technological restrictions, such as de-indexing, on the dissemination of ideas tends to work to the disadvantage of people with less technical know-how. The more technically knowledgeable will generally find ways around such obstacles. One result of the flag and de-indexing, then, is that voices that have already become weakened by the technological revolution will become weaker still.

Blogger is not a business like other businesses. Ideas that appear on a blog have not been subjected to purchase or sale, and therefore do not belong to Blogger to do with as it wishes.

70 Comments:

Blogger Lone Ranger said...

Just because you have a right to free speech doesn't mean someone has the obligation to provide you with a platform, nor that people are required to hear you. Every community has the right to establish and enforce standards. Two standards I enforce in my home is no spam and no vulgarity or pornography. I'm assuming that a lot of other people -- the people in my community -- agree with those standards, because those sites are quickly disappearing.

9/19/2005 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger Ross Nantz said...

Hi,

I found your blog via the next blog "button" today and just finished reading the blogger support post on yer other log...

Anyway, I find it all interesting cuz I myself wonder about similar things. For me this is an IT thing and I'm just getting back on the grid and online and learning more about IT in a "I'm working with IT as well..."

Like today...next blogging all day. It was a way to see the world through "blogger" eyes in a way... How was the next blog I saw determined??? I had never clicked that button until today and you were there.

Reading blogs by folks in India... They sounded so American yet they were from India...

My first post... IT wouldn't let me "publish" some simple words. Error??? By this I mean... words that were "published" did not show up in the published form... though the "words" were there in the edit mode. I'm talking a few words, ambiguous though very direct words. Everything published 'cept those words...

It's been like since I began this relationship with blogger.com

Calm yet???

A "free" public service??? So far...

Anyway, Thanks.

9/20/2005 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff Manley said...

I think that it stupid that blogger has added the flag thing, but what are you going to do? Maybe if everyone just went around flagging random blogs (that have no real objectionable content) blogger would get annoyed and shut it down.

9/22/2005 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Old SAW - S. A. Wilson said...

just surfin'

i don't like the flag thing... i clicked someones by accident, not knowing exactly what it was... i've told blogger to drop it.

that being said: electric co example doesn't really work... pub utilities have extra responsibilities as a result of monopoly/favored status... in other words you just can't start your own electric co if you don't like them... but you can go to another blog co if you don't like blogger... if enough people walk with their feet/mouse they'll hear you... you have a choice... they have a choice... that's freedom for you... kinda messy... but the best we got...

i feel for blogger because i like surfing with the next blog button but i don't like being flashed with porno pic's on my daily surf... i imagine that's the real issue for them...

if your blog got flagged... i'm sure many on the firey right have as well... as a repub bush supporter i apologize for my side's excesses... keep bloggin'... keep slammin' the corporate man... but don't ask big brother to step in... you may not like FEMA types deciding who gets to say what... sw

9/22/2005 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger car said...

But the real problem is the liberals don't what to hear anything positive about Bush or conservative viewpoints. They want it censored, but cry if someone flags their sites!

9/23/2005 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Marcy said...

As someone who has accidentally stumbled accross blogs with disturbing content, I like the idea of having *some* way to communicate with blogger about these sites and get them shut down.

If the flag thing bothers you so much, why did you start another blog on blogger? There are tons of other blog communities out there (xanga and livejournal to name 2) plus webspace you can pay for to make just your own.

Blogger has the freedom to run its blog hosting space how it wants to, just as you have the freedom to leave at any time and go someplace else. It's not like you don't have other options-- you have tons.

9/23/2005 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger RenderB said...

The question for me really is: if the blog has disturbing content as you put it why not simply stop going there?

Why do you feel the need to take the blog down or give it a bad mark? What is disgusting to some others could not care less about.

As for pornography, if someone wants to put a picture of their naked body on their blog does that really matter? do you really care? I just laugh and move on.
I haven't even tried to keep track of all the times I ended up on a totally unrelated site after doing a general search on google for a company or project. Should I start sending emails to google and the host of the site to have it taken down?

I think blogger should be free to have some discretion over what they host especially content that enters the realm of illegal content. But when it comes to personal taste I dont think censorship should be applied. As i said if you dont like something don't read it. You know in advance that going trough random blogs means going into a semi private space where people voice their own opinions, feelings, tastes. likes and dislikes. Who are we to say what is right or wrong?
Should people from other countries be subject to US laws and ideals? If we go down that road than google might as well shut this place down. Because part of the reason why blogs are so popular is because everyone has a voice.

9/26/2005 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Great arguments, RenderB. Thanks.

9/26/2005 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger splogfighter said...

Although I can sympathize with some of what you say I think you've just reached something called Godwin's Law and therefore any discussion on the subject should come to a close. I don't want to put a link since you might think I'm spamming. Just Google for it.

9/29/2005 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Thanks for your comment and your efforts fighting splogs, SF. Few people hate splogs more than I do. But I have my obsessions, in the same way that you have yours. My obsession is to try to figure out the political implications of everything and anything. This blog has helped me do that as far as censorship of blogs is concerned. Blogging has created a new social and political force that the powers that be are still scrambling to deal with. We need to remain vigilant, and I think I'll be continuing this particular blog for a while yet.

9/29/2005 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger RenderB said...

Discussing a subject keeps it alive in the minds of people. Even after you come to a conclusion that suits you it will also help others come to their own conclusions. And when things change as they always do it might eventually serve to rethink your earlier opinion.

Take p2p technology: First it was great and wonderfull, at the moment goverments are tagging a few years behind and trying to make it out as the root of all evil, in a few years they'll come back on that because it is already so widely implemented in countless applications that banning it is pointless.

Same with censorship: What is ok now or subject to negative comments might be perfectly fine in half a year.
How many countries haven't their been that first denied they had drugs addicts and people with aids, later to acknowledge the problem and in the end asking for help or looking at how other countries they initially condemmed, do things.

Some issues need to be kept alive and current. Without that humans only worry and think about what goes on in the world if it directly relates to them or those around them. Personally I prefer to think about and try to change things I do not agree with before they become my personal problem. because more often than not by then it is too late to do much of anything.

9/30/2005 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Thanks again, RenderB, for your helpful comments. What I would add is that power in society exerts itself in different ways, some of which may appear contrary to each other. It all depends on the particular social or historical conjuncture. Power always wants to have complete domination. It is just that the domination takes different forms. At one point power tries to ban something outright. At another point it may try to ban or defame just those aspects that pose a danger to power's interests, meanwhile coming out of it looking very liberal for having left the rest standing. At other times, power tries to change the meaning of something while leaving its face intact, that is, co-opting it.

10/01/2005 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger jt said...

I was worried about the Flag Blog. If people wish to supress porn, ad, spam, or blogs that incite hatred, then there should be an address to notify blogger. Otherwise you just have a case where if someone finds your blog and personal opinions objectional they can flag and report you. This is worrying for free speech. Speech is free, blogs are not.

10/03/2005 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Ross Nantz said...

so do you have any idea what this is about???

the blog thing... or is this just a ruse???

ps the word verification was

lyhrz... lol!

10/03/2005 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger gasparutto said...

I found your blog using the "next blog" button on the navbar. Does that mean it is now uncensored, or now unoffensive? The only visitors I get to my blog are advertisers. This is self-censorship: if the content is interesting, it probably offends someone. My blog is thankfully uninteresting.

10/05/2005 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

This blog is not and has never been subject to de-indexing, Gasparutto. The blog that I thought was subject to de-indexing was my main blog at alse.blogspot.com. The traffic that a blog receives generally depends on each blogger's technical know-how. It has very little to do with how interesting the blog is. This is another, and related, type of unfairness that I have tried to address in the current blog.

10/05/2005 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger ~River~ said...

I like what you have to say. Can I link to this post from my blog?

10/07/2005 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Sure. Thanks.

10/07/2005 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Jorge Guimarães Silva said...

Hi. I dont like any kind of censorship. Voltaire wrote one day: "I do not agree with a word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". So do I.

10/07/2005 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Clifford Duffy said...

hello _ I was wondering if you knew how to take the navbar off a blog? I find the whole affair disturbing. I too was dismayed when I first saw the flags. It seems though that one cannot take the navbar flags off of free blog services...

10/09/2005 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Clifford Duffy said...

By the way, the question of updating blogs on the list is something I'd noticed quite a while back. I don't know whether that is a reliable source knowing whether or not traffic is flowing through.

10/09/2005 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Thanks, C.Duffy, for your comments. As to your first question, I am no computer whiz myself either. I found out how to remove the navbar through a Google search. I removed it on my main blog (alse.blogspot.com), but I left the current blog's navbar intact, as it would be quite ironic if Blogger decided to de-index this particular blog. In Google, search for “navbar noembed” (without the quotation marks). You’ll find a number of sites that give instructions on how to remove the navbar. It is a very simple procedure, and involves adding just a couple of lines to your blog’s template. If you are non-technical like me, I suggest keeping a copy of the template in a separate document just in case you make a mistake while changing the code.

As to your second question and your overall concern about this issue, I would say that, based on what I have learned through this blog's dialogue, I no longer think Blogger's personnel have ever deliberately de-indexed any blog on account of the opinions it contains. For me, the nature of the problem has changed somewhat. My concern now is a political question, which is that society has become so inured to loss of civil rights that people are willing to put up with censorship by unknown individuals on the basis of unknown criteria. This obliviousness extends to Blogger's personnel themselves, who don't even seem to realize that they are giving themselves illegitimate license to censor opinions. This is a real problem, even if they never in fact exercise the right they have given themselves. What I am saying is that the problem, for me, is no longer just about blogs and blogging, which are, in the final analysis, trivial matters anyway. The problem is the implications of this obliviousness for other realms of our social and political lives.

10/09/2005 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

CD --
you don't (in this post) define what "de-indexing" constitutes (assuming everybody knows); but mea culpa, I've not (as yet) read your prior posts.

Anyway, I'm afraid a thoughtful reading of this argument of yours may find it somewhat weak:

<< Blogger has created the appearance of providing a forum for our opinions that is free of the usual undemocratic constraints within a capitalist enterprise. If Blogger fails to deliver such a forum, it can legitimately be accused of misrepresentation. >>

It could be argued that the very
appearance of the "flag if
objectionable" gizmo in itself
suffices to obviate the appearance
you claim Blogger has created.
Ergo, they've just taken away the
ground of your objection, no?

Whether they describe what that
gizmo is, what its consequences are,
what the basis of a site's
objectionability could be, etc. --
all those are things I don't
know (haven't researched).
Regardless, I humbly submit that
the logic of your argument quoted
above is simply & patently weak on
its face.

Nonetheless & that notwithstanding,
I feel you've good principles on
your side. You can craft a more
watertight argument, I suspect.
(Perhaps you've already done so
in other posts . . . )

Q: do you know for a fact that the mere existence of complaints would have any effect at all? For all I know, it's a placebo lever, whereby unhappy readers can voice their objection safely (and feel satisfied in doing so), yet it could have no tangible consequence at all.

I don't know that it does or doesn't. But perhaps you know . . . (?)

cheers,
d.i.

10/12/2005 02:01:00 AM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Thanks for your comment, David. I think you may find the rest of this blog interesting.

I think your objection is grounded in false premises. The freedom to snitch is not what is usually meant by freedom. In fact, it is the opposite of freedom, and a tool used by every oppressive regime.

The flag, and blogging as such for that matter, are unimportant and trivial matters. The issue that this blog addresses is "the principle of the thing," as in "The fact that you owe me five bucks is a trivial matter, but I ask you to pay it back because of the principle of the thing."

10/12/2005 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Graham Jones said...

all very interesting. my blog is a novel and therefore never updated. does the automated system discriminate against it?

10/14/2005 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

No idea, Graham. You might try asking Blogger's staff, but, based on my experience with them, they are not likely to give a straight or useful answer to this kind of question.

10/14/2005 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger mlampp said...

I look at it like this. Blogger is free for all to use. They can do what they want to do.

10/21/2005 12:05:00 AM  
Blogger mlampp said...

I meant Google can do what they want to do. Its in the Google Terms of Service.

10/21/2005 12:12:00 AM  
Blogger Cibbuano said...

I can understand Blogger's position, given that there are so many spam and porn blogs on their service.

Perhaps the 'Flag' button isn't an effective way to filter content, but I find it pretty easy when I'm surfing. Unfortunately, like you said, it has high abuse appeal.

10/24/2005 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger J&M said...

With freedom comes responsibility. I am all for "sensible censorship".

In Singapore recently some bloggers were jailed for making racist comments:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20051007/tc_afp/singaporeinternetpoliticsreligion

I agree with Singapore on this one.

10/27/2005 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

In the short while I've been a part of the Blogger community, I've only flagged pornographic and "friend finder" sites. I don't flag a blog just because I don't agree with what it has to say or because the user has hundreds of 1MB pictures on the front page... or because I find their design annoying, I just hope I never stumble upon it ever again. But I suppose the TOS are up for different personal interpretations.

11/08/2005 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen M. James said...

I never assumed that this was an uncensored forum and disagree with the following:

"In other words, Blogger has created the appearance of providing a forum for our opinions that is free of the usual undemocratic constraints within a capitalist enterprise. If Blogger fails to deliver such a forum, it can legitimately be accused of misrepresentation."

If I wanted an uncensored forum, I would get my own domain with my own service provider (therefore the server farm owners can't be contacted and shut me down) in the middle of the ocean (so a government can't shut me down) otherwise your content and platform is ruled by the liscense that you are given by the person you are leasing services from.

--Stephen

11/08/2005 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger STAG said...

Flags are good.
There IS a "community of bloggers"
There are abusive individuals in any community.
The blogger support gets a gazillion complaints a day...they can't keep up with complaints. (No I don't know this for sure...but geeze louise guys,it stands to reason!)
The flag button is a way for the administrators of Blogger to see which blogs are REALLY pissing a LOT of people off.
Lots of flags will alert them to a problem.
What they do with people who have become so far out of line that everybody in the world doesn't like them is up to them....its their service. They might decide to simply let it go...or to crack down on the problem.
Yes, it is possible to disable your nav bar. Such sites no longer become part of the "community" but are simply vanity home pages of no value.

11/11/2005 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Jack Celliers said...

I think you have a point. But how to avoid it? The problem can be described like this, I think: They give you a free service, then they make a huge publicity about it, and then they modify/restrain/change the conditions. As it's free, you are not allowed to complain.

But hell you are! They gain prestige thanks to you. They made themselves known as giving a free-speech service for free thanks to you. Then they modify it.

It's subtle, and dangerous. We are heading to a society that "thinks" it lives in freedom, but in fact subtly controlled.

11/17/2005 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Nefarious Aflatus said...

I have an interest in this subject. One of my blogs, that I do for entertainment, has apparently been "de-listed" because of such flagging. The laugh is that it isn't horrible by any means. It's a spoof blog... laughs... giggles and is such titled;
STOP SNIFFING YOUR FINGERS
Http://newspoofs.blogspot.com

I would also like to say that the "flag" thing is a load of crap. It empowers censorship at a frightening level. There should at least be review of said "flags" which there obviously isn't as you will see after viewing my blog.

Flagging seems to have become a tool for insipid morons that want to disrupt someone else's life for one reason or another... usually, as I can tell from the amount of political blogs that have been "de-listed," this seems to be because they either have something to hide that is addressed in the blogs or they simply cannot defend their positions adequately as adults.... so... they simply abuse something that is there supposedly to help.

I've another blog that has been de-listed because others have used it's content in other forums and don't want anyone else to make the connection that they are actually plagiarists.

It is truly a sad and pathetic world in allot of ways..... there is definitely an element of "competition" as well, and the underhanded removing of traffic for some blogs through wrongfuly flagging others..... and in that is the sad display of ass kissing "who you know" politics on the internet. It sucks and so do they... and I might add, through allowing such obvious wrongful censorship, so do the people that support them through inaction.


I wouldn't be surprised if this blog were flagged as well. I would actually like to link to it if you are interested.... and outwardly so in an effort to combat these sad displays of censorship. Send me an email if you do not aprove of your link on my page listed in this post.

It might be a good idea to link as many of the wrongfully removed blogs as possible... after review and adult decisions concerning thier content.

I would make room for links of competent though removed blogs.

11/23/2005 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger stevegb_uk said...

Interesting, I figured the "flag" was just there to satisfy the easily offended. Well, anyway...thanks for the info. I found your blog after only two "next-blog" clicks. Perhaps those easily offended folks should use the "next-blog" button if they don't like what their reading - and let everyone else use their right to free speech.

11/29/2005 01:02:00 AM  
Blogger johannes said...

just add a 'make poverty history banner' over the top right corner of your site and watch people try to flag your website! Side effects: you can't hit the next blog button either....

12/06/2005 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Nefarious Aflatus said...

Something else I've just noticed about the online censorship thing with blogs... is beyond the element of "competition" and wrongfull flags by people that want others looking at their blog and not yours...
....is a rather strange element of somehow blocking xml feeds and breaking links to the "flagged" blog(s).

When I linked my personal email account page with my blog addresses... things were fine for a couple of days... but now, ALL of the personalized links are broken every day for some reason.

I have contacted the email server about it several times and have yet to get a response of ANY kind.

http://newspoofs.blogspot.com

My blogs aren't anything of importance, really... other than having had a run in with a web site I USED to publish my spoofs at, that banned me after my stories getting HUGE hits.... it moved me up on the writers list there.... FAST.. I was number 3 within two weeks... people were sindicating the crap out of my stories....one of which got more than 600 hits in less than 48 hours, just before they blocked me from my account.

I guess it made someone jealous... it's just a weird and really unjust aspect of the "flag" ability of anyone being able to remove someone else's blog from circulation.

Some really pathetic crap out there.

12/12/2005 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger brainhell said...

My first impulse was to say 'Hah ha! I flagged this blog! ;-)" But you have obviously given this careful thought. What is your response to the Market Solution: Go blog elsewhere?

Blogger cannot be forced to publish blogs. They could, for example, publish only Christian blogs. But I think that a valid class action could be made on the grounds that the public expects, based on Blogger's stated policies, that there will be no censorship of ideas. Blogger rather neatly gets around this by letting the readers censor.

You're hosed.

12/12/2005 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Hi BH. I think I would offer one correction to what you said, which is that the readers don't censor. Rather, they are made complicit in the censorship. This issue and the other issues you have raised have been discussed in this blog already, either by the commenters or by me. As you will see, my own interest in the matter is almost purely political, and doesn't really revolve around Blogger or blogging as such.

12/12/2005 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Kelwin Jumala said...

wanna know if yer blog is blocked? look for the following text in the source code...

script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.blogger.com/js/backlink.js">/script>
script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.blogger.com/js/backlink_control.js">/script>
script type="text/javascript">var BL_backlinkURL = "http://www.blogger.com/dyn-js/backlink_count.js";var BL_blogId = "19044514";/script>

(I had to take out all the leading "<" so it would let me post it...)

Now that's not the source code you can see from your template mod page, but the "View Source" option in your browser when looking at your blog...

The header info in your tamplate page is "hidden" and therefore uneditable by you, it comes from a different source on the blogger server...

I noticed that I had zero visitors lately and decided to check after reading this blog... I checked your original blog and it's there too... that section of code was NOT present on any of the blogs that came up in the "next blog" series...

mine may have been flagged because it is a military blog that I have not registered with my chain-of-command (as is required of all soldiers with blogs)...

Just a bit of info for your use... post it if you want and research further if you want...

I'm at milcon.blogspot.com

12/14/2005 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

I would appreciate comments on what Kelwin has said, because I am about the farthest thing there is from a techie. By the way, I want to correct a misunderstanding that some people seem to have about this blog. I started this blog because I thought my main blog was being blocked/de-indexed. I realized long ago, though, that I was mistaken about that. To my knowledge, neither this blog nor my main blog is or has ever been blocked/de-indexted. The sole reason I have continuted this blog is to help people think about the idea of flaggin and blocking. That is all. But as far as this blog or my main blog are concerned, I have no quarrels at all with Blogger. To my knowledge, Blogger has never blocked/de-indexed any of my blogs.

12/14/2005 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

i hadn't thought about this in this way. some good points.

however, are you actually going to go to all the effort of maintaining a blog that seems to say one only thing?

i mean, i recognize that my blogs also cycle and i find myself exploring the same things again and again from different angles... but -wow- your effort here is worth flagging over and over again just so that they take notice of it!

12/20/2005 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Please flag on, Jollyblogger! I deliberately left the navbar on this blog intact, hoping that some people would flag it. I thought it would be the height of irony if a blog about the flag feature gets de-indexed! I do my regular blogging on my main blog (alse.blogspot.com), whose navbar I removed as soon as the flag thing came out. I started this blog on the side, because I decided the issue was importnat enough to deserve its own blog. And, BTW, please do what I have urged people to do in this blog, which is to write support@blogger.com and tell them what you think.

12/20/2005 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger WT said...

I think that if blogspot were truely committed to being free/friendly/etc, they could add a rating feature for the bloggers who are "next blogging". By this I mean you tell it what you want to see, don't want to see. There are always cheaters, but I think it's a fair way to go. Stuble Upon is a web browsing service that works much the same way...you tell it what you want to browse for, and it searches for those things based on a given index. If you cheat, THEN u get flagged, and de-indexed, whatever...

12/21/2005 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Morion said...

I read your posts with interest. The deterioration of Blogger was paralleled over at MySpace, also back in August. MySpace is generally a place where kids hangout and say wussup to each other, but there have been plenty of adults who could write intelligently about the corruption of our current Administration. Quite a number of these were mysteriously deleted by "Tom" and his staff, while what were basically T & A porn-sites flourished. Personally I have no problem with porn and porn sites; my only objection is the kind that leave, or attempt to leave trojans and adware in your computer. I found it odd that MySpace did nothing to either restore the political Spaces and nothing to delete the pseudo-porn. What they did do was to introduce a corrupt piece of software that you would download, thinking you were going to get "cool .gif images." What you got was adware and spyware that turned into viruses. Specifically, Delfin Project and Surfside Kick. It cost us 80 GB of hardrive and a lot of writing and artwork. The response of MySpace: nothing.
I bring this up because the same thing could happen here. You will notice that you can upload pictures directly from your computer into your blog's text-space, but if you wnat to have an avatar you have to download their Picasa/hello software. I did this when I first came here and it would pop up a window every two hours asking if I wanted to connect to Picasa/hello. When I complained and asked how to disable it I got stony silence for two weeks and then an answer that basically asked me what my problem was. Picasa/hello went into the file-shredder. Between what happened at MySpace and what happened with Google's little Picasa/hello nonsense, you can just bet I read EULAs very carefully since then. I advise one and all to do the same here at Blogspot. Deleting or de-indexing a blog would be a minor worry compared to having bugs in your hard-drive - courtesy of Google.

12/22/2005 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger ladyshark said...

thank you for putting this blog up so we can talk about this. no, this isn't freedom. i had a blog with graphic content. with gore pics. i think cyberspace should be about freedom for the little people. i'm not into porn, just studying death. if spammers are abusing the blog, deal with them and don't censor us.

yes and if we're using their service, they should be trying to give us viruses.

blogs take alot of time, effort, and work to make. we're putting out soul into them. we should have a reliable company.

12/26/2005 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I read your correspondence with Blogger, and I think they have a pull-down list of things to add to the response, as well as a summary inclusion of all past emails, just in case you forget or something. :D They should definitely fix that.

I like what STAG said. It really summed up where Blogger was trying to go with the whole "flag" thing, how Blogger is using it to find which blogs bug a lot of people.

However, I think that flagging has lost its reliability and truthfulness based on the people that use it. Sure, some people do use it in the way it was intended to be used, but it is being abused and that does more harm than good. Blogger needs to do something along the lines of what WT suggested, with some sort of rating system that either slows down the flagging process, making it harder to flag irresponsibly, and/or adding something that allows the blog reader to state his or her reason for flagging that specific blog.

About people that flag political blogs that are to their disliking: I know that these people are annoying, rude, and stubborn, but there are things that the blogger could do to make his or her blog less prone to such flags. I thought about it after I was looking at the Blogger help page for flagging. I noticed at the bottom it says "Special Case for Hate Speech", and I thought that from the point of view of those annoying, rude, and stubborn people, all these political blogs may appear so. If you write a disclaimer or something that shows you're someone with open ears, just like Al S. E. did at the beginning of this blog, then people are more likely to listen and not just pass through. At first glance, appearance is everything, and most of us aren't patient enough to read more than a paragraph or so.

Kelwin Jumala brought up a good technical aspect of what is considered being "unlisted". To get around that: maybe you could add comment tags, like such?

<!-- COMMENT GOES HERE -->

This might be able to get rid of the block if you can target the area where the code is inserted. I don't know if it will work, and I can't test it, but it's worth a shot. And save your template before you attempt this; I don't want to mess anyone up. :)

If you're angry about the flag button, just get rid of the bar, or place an image over the flag button, like what Johannes suggested. In fact, I have one on one of my blogs, and it is not blocked. As for XML Feed blocking... I don't think that's Blogger's fault. It could be temporary, I've had it happen to some of my friends' blogs that weren't hosted on Blogger.

Anyhow, this is a really nice blog, because first of all I didn't just pass it up (you lured me in!), but a lot of it is understanding and willing to listen. Keep up the good work!

12/26/2005 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Actually I am glad there is a flag system. When I use "next blog", I come across some really interesting blogs. But I am coming on a disturbing percentage that immediately redirect me to a casino site or a porn site. I have learned to immediately hit "back" on my browser and go straight for the flag before I can be headed off to the casino/porn site again. The porn sites especially worry me as some are blatant and I do not get the opportunity to avoid them.

I notice you use comment moderation as I do: the reason I do it is that I do not want to be inadvertently promoting links to porn and casino sites via comments. I am soon going to be travelling and do not want young relatives coming innocently across these as they check out my blog.

12/27/2005 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I just use word verification, which usually blocks out most spam. And just to be safe, all comments are emailed to me, so I know what's posted, and I can easily delete the comment if it's inappropriate.

12/28/2005 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger SHELTONSFAMILY said...

WELL I HOPE THAT I DO NOT GET CENSORED OFF OF MY OWN SITE. THAT REALLY IS NOT RIGHT. IS FREEDOM OF SPEACH NO LONGER PROTECTED. AND IF SO WHY..


THANK YOU
RICHARD

12/31/2005 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger C.H. Brown said...

I think my objection to Blogger's censorhip was its spinelessness in not responding to my inquiries as to why my blog was de-indexed.

My site was devoted to gambling and I had posted Adsense ads that naturally picked up the gambling theme keywords.

But I have never received a reply to my requests for an explanation.
Blogger's parent, Google, strongly encourages and solicites gambling-related advertizers to spend money to place Adwords ads.(In fact, I would go so far as speculate that Google is the largest platform for ambling-related advertizing on the web). So it seems hypocritical for Blogger to object to a gambling blog's theme.

I went back and re-read the terms and conditions, and did not find any thing I had done in violation of these rules.

But in truth, I do not actually know for sure what Blogger's objection to my site (www.guerrillagambling.blogspot.com) was since their cowardly refusal to reply to my emails leaves me with only supposition.

So the point here is, while most censors loudly announce their objections to certain material, and will fill any listenting ear with their reasons, Blogger has taken the position of anonymity and cowardly refusal to even explain why they object to certain material.
The Guerrilla Gambler

P.S. if any Blogger employee should read this and would like to explain or discuss this matter with me, you have my email address and I would be delighted to hear your side of this issue.

1/02/2006 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger Asher Hunter said...

Well said. Censorship is an ugly thing, no matter how it hides its head. Google is no more justified in silencing the voice of one person than that person would be in silencing Google. Yes, ok, I paraphrased an old saying, but it stands. :)

1/04/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger jungle jane said...

Why do you think you were de-indexed as a matter of interest?

i removed my word verification (and i get a lot of traffic) 2 weeks ago and haven't had a single instance of spam...

1/04/2006 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger servant said...

Misery loves company I guess. I haven't been receiving any NextBlog hits for quite some time. I don't know when it started because I use a free tracker that only shows the last twenty days. I can't get any reply from blogger support other than those dumb canned link responses.

It's surprising to see how many people actual like the benefits of censorship as a completely opaque and arbratrary process behind closed doors. Probably think it's a good idea to have NSA read their emails, and TIA data mining all their credit card purchases. In their case it probably is harmless, because their "thinking" doesn't rise above the threshold of citizenship.

Anyone who is doing actual thinking is very likely to be flagged as "un-American".

1/04/2006 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Marilyn said...

Just wondering about removing the blogger bar with the flag button. I've removed my bar - are there any ramifications of doing so? Will people still be able to find my blog?

Also, if you're so against the nav bar, why do you still have it on your blog?

1/17/2006 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Marilyn: I am no techie, but, as far as I know, people will still be able to find your blog. The reason is that people will still come to your blog when they click Next Blog on a navbar. They just won't be able to leave your blog the same way, which is to your advantage. Several months ago, I removed the navbar on my main blog, with no effects on its traffic.

Some people worry that removing the navbar may violate Blogger's sacred Terms of Service, but that is exactly the mentality that I am opposed to. The fact that someone in a position of authority and power decides to make some arbitrary rules does NOT mean that we have to follow those rules.

As I have said before, the reason I have not removed the navbar on this particular blog is that I think it would be so hilariously ironic if Blogger de-indexed this blog.

1/17/2006 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Purl_Princess said...

Hasn't anyone noticed - that not only do your own blogs never appear on recently updated - it's ALWAYS the same 10 blogs that are on there? I have never seen different ones...

1/19/2006 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Al S. E. said...

Purl Princess: The problem you referred to seems to be some type of technical malfunction that the Blogger staff can't or won't do anything about. I wrote them about it a couple of weeks ago, but didn't receive an answer. Maybe if a whole bunch of people complained, they'd do something. Please write them at support@blogger.com

I hope you'll complain about the flag, too ; )

1/19/2006 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger STAG said...

I like bloggs, but I don't like bloggs which are thinly disgused advertising sites. I suppose if somebody had a blog about poker, and talked about strategy, characters in the media, and so forth, that would be fine with me. But entries which consist of dozens of random words, with the words "online gambling" linked no less! and repeated dozens of times is just a pathetic attempt to phish people in, and increase the google presence. Its funny...I would flag such a site, yet if the owner was open and honest about it, making a perfectly upfront and honest gambling advertising site, I would say "way to go".

I guess it is related to my gardening...I don't like it when I step in the sheep shit without knowing it is there, but am happy to use it in the compost pile when it is right there ready to be shoveled up.

When I sent blogger support a list of re-directing sites (all of which re-directed me to porn sites! Normally okay, but I had guests that day and was showing off the blog network...grin!) they didn't do anything about it...they DID reply, and told me about the "flag" system.

Now I only send them links to sites which mess with the flags...grin!

The problems seem to come and go...sometimes I cannot surf through more than 3 blogs before hitting a re-direct, and other times whole days go by with me hitting perfectly normal everyday bloggs.

1/25/2006 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew Kramer said...

I figured I would quote the TOS to help agree with you:

"6a. CONTENT OWNERSHIP Unless stated otherwise for specific services, Member will retain copyright ownership and all related rights for information he or she publishes through Blogger or otherwise enters into Blogger-related services.

6b. CONTENT RESPONSIBILITY Member acknowledges and agrees that Pyra neither endorses the contents of any Member communications nor assumes responsibility for any threatening, libelous, obscene, harassing or offensive material contained therein, any infringement of third party intellectual property rights arising therefrom or any crime facilitated thereby. "
Don't like reading Leagl mumbo jumbo? The preceeding simply states that what you write it the property of you and you alone. Blogger can NOT leaglly modify your posts, or censor you. This confirm Bloggers position as a utilityesq provider. However, it does not clear up where De-Indexing falls in. However, I would assume that it would be illegeal and dare I say unconsitutional for Blogger to de-index a blog (save for a reason such as maintnece, software glitch, etc etc.)

3/09/2006 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger David A. Archer - Proximity Gestation said...

This is a blogger censorship development that I find hard to believe anyone would see as just. My study notes blog has had a few pages blocked/removed from view for some reason;


http://studies-of-david-a-archer-2-15-1968.blogspot.com/2006/10/proximity-gestation-contin_116146329038889534.html

http://studies-of-david-a-archer-2-15-1968.blogspot.com/2006/10/proximity-gestation-contin_116162645515532792.html

Blog Profile Page;

http://www.blogger.com/profile/10484877

Makes me tend to think that maybe there is something deeper than just over sensitive cronies flagging blogs - like maybe there is even a market for other peoples information that someone (people) at blogger is/are a part of. Like selling other peoples work, with the ability to then remove it from view?

It wouldn't surprise me given most of the social dynamic of the internet... and of course the market for things such as study notes for "Athletes" and the sort.

Not to mention just someone that happened to feel like they could take an idea as their own... as long as they know someone that will corroborate.

There is no other reason I can think of that study notes would be blocked and censored in such a way.

Really freaking sad display of humanity if you ask me. Desperate, sad examples of what should otherwise be humans.

12/10/2006 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ron Knee's Rants and Raves said...

My blog has just been "flagged". I notified a few friends of mine, one of whom admitted that he had done it. He thought that he was adding my site ti his IE "Favorites".

So I have now been tagged with no way to remove it as he is on a dynamic IP and was not logged in to blogger.

12/29/2006 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First- thank you for your blog on this very critical issue. So many of us out here, standing for truth, are being blocked on blogger.com. It's a wake up call.


GOOGLE HAS RUINED BLOGGING FOR ALL BUT RUSH AND NEWT. I'M DONE.
THEY HAVE BLOCKED ALL OF MY BLOGS AND I AM WAITING NOW FOR MY PUTER TO BLOW UP.

BUT, I DO PLAN TO MAKE MY THOUGHTS KNOWN ABOUT GOOGLE AND BLOGGER.COM ON MY OTHER BLOGS AND ONLINE FORUMS.

TILL THE DAY I DIE. WHICH COULD BE SOON. HAVE A NICE ENSLAVEMENT.

4/04/2007 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Bastard said...

Blogger put a warning of my blog because some people who opposed my views complained. My blog is a parody of the fat acceptance movement. Google says it won't censor parodies.

Google in in breach of contract and since they have deep pockets a greedy lawyer friend of mine will sue them.

4/17/2011 08:45:00 PM  
Anonymous tube of you said...

Its nothing but an incredible post. Thanks.

4/20/2011 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger El said...

I don't mean to be off topic but this is important. There are bloggers who put out dangerous information. Google will remove a blog if it gets enough complaints. I don't think that is fair because unpopular speech should be protected but turn about is fair play.

Fat Acceptance bloggers flag fitness and weight loss blogs and get them removed. They are a virulent anti health cult of very sick people who prey on others with self esteem issues and teach them how to play the victim.

One of the worst bloggers is www.bigfatdelicious.blogspot.com click the report abuse on her blog and flag this dangerous woman's blog.

Remove her blog before she removes yours.

I wish google wasn't a corporate net nanny and censor but they are. Google is in breech of its own contract. They can be sued for breech of contract for de-indexing and sand boxing.
Thanks

8/16/2011 03:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Dice Censorship said...

I was not aware of censorship here on blogger.

This is very interesting because we're encountering the very same phenomenon on the IT jobs site dice.com. We're asking ourselves the exact same questions.

Like in your case, some say Dice is entitled to censor it's own website. However, also like in your case the repercussions of censorship are detrimental to public good. Dice is often cited as a source on jobs related data, but considering that this data may be used to sway public policy, it is irresponsible for Dice to censor criticism.

9/12/2011 05:43:00 PM  
Anonymous security equipment said...

I would like to thank you for the efforts you've made in writing this posting. I'm hoping the same very best function from you inside future too.

11/23/2011 02:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with you here. Censorship is growing and becoming a lot worse. We NEED to make a difference.
Brandon,
Bypass-Censorship.org

6/18/2012 01:05:00 PM  

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