Google Shuts Down Anti-Obama Blogs
Some Obama supporters are apparently taking advantage of Google’s terms of service to silence anti-Obama blogs, Simon Owens of Bloggasm reports. The company automatically shuts down sites upon receipt of TOS violation claims until they’re able to do a human audit, a rather slow process with given little priority on the free BlogSpot service.
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.”
Larry Johnson and others charge that this is a coordinated effort by “Obama supporters,” a rather nebulous group, but they have no proof as of yet. Certainly, nothing yet ties this to Obama or his campaign team. Sister Toldja says “it wouldn’t be surprising to find out this indeed was happening, considering how so many far left Obama supporters react at the slightest hint of criticism of Barry Oh.”
Indeed. It’s hard to imagine, given the pattern, that “Obama supporters” aren’t behind this. I’d be surprised, indeed, if Obama or senior campaign staff had any knowledge of this. Unless some major news comes out toward that end, then, the Obama angle is only tangentially interesting.
The crucial issue here is the ease with which electronic speech can be stifled. Jim Geraghty observes that “Google may need to revisit its policy in managing Blogspot,” snarking, “At the very least, the system should inquire if the person making the complaint has adopted the middle name “Hussein”. And Warner Todd Huston reminds us that this isn’t a unique occurence, with many conservative blogs having previously fallen victim to Google’s policies.
The power of Google in the marketplace is troubling. I say that as someone who’s an avid user of their products, especially Gmail and Google Search, and who derives some small income through Google’s AdSense program. On the other hand, I also, like most other bloggers, am at the mercy of Google — by far the biggest player in Internet search — for ranking in their system and referred traffic.
As I’ve recounted previously, I’ve been the victim of BlogSpot myself. More than a dozen niche blogs that I had on that domain, including the original incarnation of Outside the Beltway, was summarily “disappeared” and I was unable to get a non-automated response out of Google. I’ve said it before and I repeat: If you’re serious about your blog, get your own domain.
It doesn’t end there, though. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act provides that those who claim copyright infringement on material published on the Web merely have to lodge a formal complaint with the server and the host is obligated to take the material down in short order. The burden of proof is on the publisher, not the claimant, to prove that they have a right to publish the content. That power could easily be abused in an election cycle.
YouTube (which has been absorbed into the Google collective) and various other highly influential online outlets have adopted similar “guilty until proven innocent” rules. I have received several notices from YouTube informing me that a company has claimed a copyright on a posted video and that, while the video I posted would remain operational, all statistics and so forth would be credited to the claimant.
[Claimant] claimed this content as a part of the YouTube Content Identification program. YouTube allows partners to review YouTube videos for content to which they own the rights. Partners may use our automated video / audio matching system to identify their content, or they may manually review videos.
If you believe that this claim was made in error, or that you are otherwise authorized to use the content at issue, you can dispute this claim with [Claimant] and view other options in the Video ID Matches section of your YouTube account. Please note that YouTube does not mediate copyright disputes between YouTube owners. Learn more about video identification disputes.
In fact, the videos in question were legitimately copywrited and I’ve got no quarrel with the outcome. I only posted them to my account to preserve them, having posted videos on OTB only to have the original poster remove them and screw up the post. But the policy here is bizarre: YouTube will take action based on a claim but they provide zero recourse!
Given that online communication is increasingly important in politics and business, we’re going to need a better, more efficient means of dispute resolution than we currently have. Right now, it’s far too easy to do mischief.