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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.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    James;

    Yuo will recall, perhaps that you and I had a long discussion a few years ago about Blogspot. In the end, it was the nature of the service agreemnts that caused me to leave, all the rest of the advantages of leaving aside. I swear I’d have been tossed off the thing a long time ago, had I stayed.

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  2. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    Well, technically it is a crime to knowingly make a false DMCA takedown claim. So there is protection under the law, and a victim of a false takedown can sue the person who issued it. The ISP is immune from any kind of retribution however.

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  3. just me says:

    I think my objection is that those out to shut down sites for content can cause a lot of havoc for the site owners.

    I doubt a campaign would bother to organize such mischief making-but it doesn’t take much for a group of supporters to come up with a plan.

    I think this is one area where Liberals and conservatives in general part-liberals seem far more about message shut down than conservatives do-just look at how various speakers are treated on University campus-pies, shout downs etc. This is the internet version of a pie in the face.

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  4. Paleo-Pat says:

    Yeah, I’m one of them Conservative Bloggers. I’m full time writer, meaning I don’t have the income here to pay for monthly hosting.

    I can get a good hosting deal through Glohost.

    The 5 star hosting package for 24 months is good deal.

    So, if you want to help out. come on over and hit the tip jar and help me get out of this Marxist Host that I am on.

    Pat

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  5. Bithead says:

    Added thoughts:

    Assuming the best answer, here.. that Google is simply responding to complaints foled by Obama supporters, why should we think anything but that we’ll see more of this kind of thing from Obama supporters, and from Google in the future?

    Why should we think that the ‘fairness doctrine’ that the Democrats are drooling over won’t be pushed next year? After all, both the ‘fairness doctrine’ and this chain of locking opposition blogs has the same effect; Silencing any and all opposition.

    Rather Gestopo like, if you ask me. Or maybe old Chicago politics. Is this the new politics Obama referred to?

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  6. Hal says:

    Larry Johnson and others charge…

    Hmmm. I guess that’s the same Larry Johnson who promised an explosive “whitey” tape. Guess that’s in the can until October when the rest of the whoopass is scheduled to be released.

    The power of Google in the marketplace is troubling.

    Monopolies suck, don’t they? Pity that busting monopolies is a marxist, socialist position that only communists use.

    Right now, it’s far too easy to do mischief.

    Which is precisely where the authors of the DMCA intended things to be – that would be the business interests that wrote it, not the “black helicopter liberals bent on restoring the marxist dream of Islam to a communist USA”.

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  7. James Joyner says:

    Hal,

    We’re basically in agreement here, right? I’m not charging or even intimating that the problem here is with the Left, the UN, or any such thing. And I forthrightly state that I’m not buying any suggestion that the Obama campaign is behind the activities here, that I’m merely using a current controversy to discuss a broader point.

    That trust-busting is a proper role for government is a bedrock principle of Classical Liberalism, going back at least as far as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776).

    Further, I don’t think I’ve ever contended that organized interests don’t skew laws in their favor against the best interests of the unorganized masses.

    As to DMCA, I don’t have any strong objection to a lower burden of proof in such claims. Otherwise, non-corporate copyright owners wouldn’t be able to afford to defend their rights. I do think, though, that there ought to be some speedy due process rebuttal right before information is squelched.

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  8. anjin-san says:

    Assuming the best answer, here.. that Google is simply responding to complaints foled by Obama supporters, why should we think anything but that we’ll see more of this kind of thing from Obama supporters, and from Google in the future?

    A load of crap. Could just as easily be McCain supports out to invent an issue to use against Obama…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Michael says:

    Assuming the best answer, here.. that Google is simply responding to complaints foled by Obama supporters, why should we think anything but that we’ll see more of this kind of thing from Obama supporters, and from Google in the future?

    Presumably Google won’t like this kind of publicity, and reform their shutdown policies to try and curtail this from happening again. My recommendation would be to allow flagging posts, and even then allowing viewers to “opt-in” to view them until the they are verified by a human.

    Why should we think that the ‘fairness doctrine’ that the Democrats are drooling over won’t be pushed next year? After all, both the ‘fairness doctrine’ and this chain of locking opposition blogs has the same effect; Silencing any and all opposition.

    I thought the fairness doctrine only applied to the use of public resources.

    Rather Gestopo like, if you ask me. Or maybe old Chicago politics. Is this the new politics Obama referred to?

    Nobody can possibly equate what could be the action of a single individual not even know to the Obama campaign with an official police unit under the Nazi government. Not even you, Bit.

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  10. Bithead says:

    A load of crap. Could just as easily be McCain supports out to invent an issue to use against Obama…

    Stretch Armstrong… is that you?

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  11. anjin-san says:

    Stretch Armstrong… is that you?

    Considering the lackluster campaign McCain has mounted, its no more of a stretch than blaming Obama.

    Most likely its and individual. I think either campaign would disavow these tactics and fire any staffer that employed them.

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  12. Bithead says:

    Nonsense, Anjin…
    and Mike;

    Nobody can possibly equate what could be the action of a single individual not even know to the Obama campaign with an official police unit under the Nazi government. Not even you, Bit.

    Ah, yes, the level of plausable deniability s always a potent defense, isn’t it?

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  13. Michael says:

    Ah, yes, the level of plausable deniability s always a potent defense, isn’t it?

    You can’t even show motive. It’s as plausible that the Pope would want to do this as it is for the Obama campaign.

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  14. Danny Glover says:

    James, you’re absolutely right about people buying their own domains if they’re serious about their blogs. And if conservatives are serious about their video and audio, they need to switch their allegiance from YouTube to Eyeblast TV.

    What I don’t understand is why conservatives continue to complain about Google’s cowardly, speech-suppressing policies yet don’t go exploring the free market for better alternatives. They don’t have to abandon left-leaning, Google-owned properties like YouTube, which still offer the largest audiences around. But they certainly should consider shifting their loyalties to services that won’t undercut them every time someone makes a false allegation about spam, copyright law or anything else.

    Google won’t fight China over suppression of free speech; it won’t fight corporate content titans who abuse copyright law; and now it seems like the company won’t even deign to second guess troublemakers in the blogosphere who support a liberal political candidate. The only way people can pressure Google to change its policies is to click their way to competitors.

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  15. anjin-san says:

    Bit,

    You continue with your strange nazi obsession and you claim others are indulging in nonsense? Been in touch with reality lately dude?

    Actually, its a good sign that the GOP seems to be at the grasping at straws stage already in relation to Obama…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Bithead says:

    You can’t even show motive

    Silencing the opposition isn’t a clear motive?

    You continue with your strange nazi obsession and you claim others are indulging in nonsense? Been in touch with reality lately dude?

    Of course! I’m also in touch with history which speaks all too clearly on these points…. your attempt to disassociate them not withstanding.

    Actually, its a good sign that the GOP seems to be at the grasping at straws stage already in relation to Obama…

    So, you’re admitting that this was in fact Obama behind this statement by Clark? Interesting.

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  17. Michael says:

    Silencing the opposition isn’t a clear motive?

    Okay, let me clarify the obvious then: You can’t show that Obama’s camp would believe this action would result in silencing the opposition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Michael says:

    Actually, its a good sign that the GOP seems to be at the grasping at straws stage already in relation to Obama…

    Only if you’re a “poisoning the well” type. Me, I’d rather Obama lose a good election than win a bad one.

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  19. anjin-san says:

    Of course! I’m also in touch with history

    And your study of history leads you to the conclusion that anyone you don’t approve of is a nazi?

    So, you’re admitting that this was in fact Obama behind this statement by Clark? Interesting.

    Bit, are you really a 10 year old, or do you just play one on a blog?

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  20. anjin-san says:

    Only if you’re a “poisoning the well” type. Me, I’d rather Obama lose a good election than win a bad one.

    How do you define a “good” election. I want to see Obama and his supporters act with integrity. What McCain & his crew does is up to them. I am only responsible for taking out the trash from my own house…

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  21. misanthropicus says:

    Not surprised that Google goes Hitler/Stalin (they did it in China, not long ago, remember?) Obama is a cause that transcends morality, fairness or justice for the MoveOn.Org/”change we can believe in” crew who are patrolling the cyberspace to maintain/enhance the reputation of their levitating Savior. The MoveOn.org, with early Silicon Valley roots, has for long became a radical lefty/fascist/Scientologist organization, relentlessly inflicting their views on society by any means (remember Gen. Petraeus Betray Us?” affair?
    As far as how this situation happens:
    1) Don’t bet your ranch that major Obama operatives are not behind this – I’d rather say yes, since that crew has been openly concerned by the fact that the Obama super-hype cannot withstand the hyperspoace’s scrutiny (as it happens in the slavishly liberal traditional media). They were clear about this, and now they’re are tackling this, with Stalin as inspiring figure.
    2) Don’t delude y/self that Google isn’t aware about their abusive/partisan stance in this matter – the Google owners/managers are part and parcel of this left-wing image control effort.

    1984 (excerpt): “Comarade Emanuel Goldstein, allow me introduce to you comrades Page and Brin, friends of progress and oppeness, who show much promise in defending the Big Brother’s image…”

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  22. fred gill says:

    What on earth makes the author think that Obama supporters are not behind this? Who else would be? As for the Obama campaign being involved, they don’t have to be. They’ll do what they usually do when his more fanatical followers act out: they’ll wait til optimal damage has been done to the other side and then mumble a half-hearted admonition to their supporters to “play fair”.

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  23. anjin-san says:

    What on earth makes the author think that Obama supporters are not behind this? Who else would be?

    Yea, just like Lamont supports attacked Lieberman’s website and crashed it.

    Who else would be? Desperate McCain supporters trying to invent an issue perhaps?

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  24. Bithead says:

    And your study of history leads you to the conclusion that anyone you don’t approve of is a nazi?

    No, but it seems clear that anyone employing such tactics as we’ve seen Obama and his minions employ can be compared directly to nazis.

    DO you comprehend the difference?

    Bit, are you really a 10 year old, or do you just play one on a blog?

    Hey, man, I’m just going by what you say.
    Don’t blame me for your own words.

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  25. Floyd says:

    What next??? The “FAIRNESS” doctrine?? [lol]

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  26. anjin-san says:

    No, but it seems clear that anyone employing such tactics as we’ve seen Obama and his minions employ can be compared directly to nazis.

    DO you comprehend the difference?

    You can’t possibly be as stupid as that statement makes you sound and still be able to type, so I will dismiss this little rant as an attention getting stunt.

    It is interesting to not that people who do not seem at all concerned about Bush & Cheney’s ability to “disappear” people or order torture will rant and rave because one person figured out how to flag blogs on Google.

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  27. anjin-san says:

    Actually, its a good sign that the GOP seems to be at the grasping at straws stage already in relation to Obama…

    So, you’re admitting that this was in fact Obama behind this statement by Clark? Interesting.

    What I said, fairly plainly, is that the GOP is already grasping at straws (such as the bogus “flag” controversy. Should I use smaller words so you can keep up?

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  28. Hal says:

    should I use smaller words so you can keep up?

    I do not believe there are words small enough.

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  29. Lesa Maestà…

    Obama come si può intuire da alcuni miei post precedenti non mi piace, lo trove un politico di vecchio stampo, degno rappresentatne della politica corrotta di Chicago. Una cosa che mi fa paura è l’aura di messia che ha presso molti dei …

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  30. DL says:

    Fairness doctrine is a violation of the 1st amendment in my book – where does the constitution speak to equal rebuttal time? Though I have no problem with it applying to all media including the NYT and the alphabet stations and channels also – because that would neuter it immediately.

    I would label it rather crudely as the “censorship” doctrine. the pubbies should be demanding it become an amendendment before it can be implemented

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  31. Hal says:

    where does the constitution speak to equal rebuttal time?

    Where, pray tell, does it prohibit it? What the constitution does not forbid is allowed.

    Well, unless you’re a commie. Then you think otherwise.

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  32. Michael says:

    How do you define a “good” election. I want to see Obama and his supporters act with integrity. What McCain & his crew does is up to them. I am only responsible for taking out the trash from my own house…

    I want to see both campaigns act with honesty and integrity, and the candidate with the majority of the support of the people elected as our representative.

    I’m only responsible for my own trash, but that doesn’t mean I want my neighbor’s trash piling up on his front yard, because that’s almost as bad for me as it is for him.

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  33. Bithead says:

    What I said, fairly plainly, is that the GOP is already grasping at straws (such as the bogus “flag” controversy. Should I use smaller words so you can keep up?

    No.
    You said “In reaction to Obama”, whereas the meme being offered right now is Obama had nothing to do with Clark’s comments.

    Do try to keep up with your own words.

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  34. Michael says:

    No, but it seems clear that anyone employing such tactics as we’ve seen Obama and his minions employ can be compared directly to nazis.

    Oh? Which tactics, exactly, are similar between Obama’s campaign and the Nazi party?

    Fairness doctrine is a violation of the 1st amendment in my book – where does the constitution speak to equal rebuttal time?

    I would label it rather crudely as the “censorship” doctrine.

    So, allowing person A as much time to speak as person B is somehow violating person B’s right of free speech? But not allowing person A as much time to speak as person B, that isn’t violating person A’s right to free speech? I’m confused. By what definition is giving guaranteed air-time to a person censorship?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Michael says:

    No.
    You said “In reaction to Obama”, whereas the meme being offered right now is Obama had nothing to do with Clark’s comments.

    Actually he said “in relation to Obama”. Be sure you’re keeping up with his words before you criticize him for not doing so.

    Reference:

    Actually, its a good sign that the GOP seems to be at the grasping at straws stage already in relation to Obama…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Hal says:

    By what definition is giving guaranteed air-time to a person censorship?

    It’s important to note that the “fairness doctrine” wasn’t a blanket policy. It only applied to broadcasters that were making use of the public spectrum. Cable TV, for example, wouldn’t have been subject to it. Talk radio, as they’re using the public spectrum, would.

    It’s akin to obeying regulations when you enter a government owned park. It’s sheer lunacy to say that this “violates the constitution”. The government has the right to make reasonable requests in return for the use/lease of government property.

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  37. Bithead says:

    Oh? Which tactics, exactly, are similar between Obama’s campaign and the Nazi party?

    Gee what have we been talking about…. Silencing opposition to the party, maybe?

    Ac

    tually he said “in relation to Obama”. Be sure you’re keeping up with his words before you criticize him for not doing so.

    That he did. And the claim was that Obam had no connection whatever. Remember?

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  38. Michael says:

    Gee what have we been talking about…. Silencing opposition to the party, maybe?

    1: You don’t even know who is doing this, let alone connect it to Obama’s campaign. 2: This is not a violent or authoritarian suppression of opposition, so even if you can satisfy #1 above, it still not the same.

    That he did. And the claim was that Obam had no connection whatever. Remember?

    And his actual working doesn’t contradict that. McCain doing something “in relation to Obama” doesn’t assume that any actions were taken by Obama, where as “in reaction to” would have.

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  39. Bithead says:

    You don’t even know who is doing this, let alone connect it to Obama’s campaign

    Ask yourself; who would benefit? Comon, quit dancing around the obvious.

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  40. Bithead says:

    This is not a violent or authoritarian suppression of opposition, so even if you can satisfy #1 above, it still not the same.

    Hitler wasn’t always violent, either. Nor Stalin.
    Or had that point gotten by you?

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  41. Michael says:

    Ask yourself; who would benefit?

    Immediately, only the guy who actually did it. In the long term, only the right-wing conspiracy theorists. Unless you can somehow convince me that some guys I’ve never heard of, who were still using blogger.com, could be perceived as threat to Obama’s campaign.

    Hitler wasn’t always violent, either. Nor Stalin.
    Or had that point gotten by you?

    There was another word in there that I used, combined with the conditional “or”.

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  42. Hal says:

    could be perceived as threat to Obama’s campaign.

    The trademark signature of a conspiracy theory – or nut case in the vernacular – is that somehow enormous effort, sophisticated collusion and precious resources are focused on a particularly trivial and inane result. It’s hard to believe some random blogger weblog, which undoubtedly so far down the power curve as to be getting purely random hits, is the target of a ruthless campaign by a candidate for the president of the United States and one of the most highly valued corporations on the planet.

    Amazing, their attention to details so tiny as to be imperceptible by the average cockroach and yet these juggernauts still leave Bithead’s blog untouched!

    101st Fighting Keyboarders, indeed.

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  43. anjin-san says:

    You said “In reaction to Obama”, whereas the meme being offered right now is Obama had nothing to do with Clark’s comments.

    Ummm, yea. What I said was “grasping at straws stage already in relation to Obama” As in his candidacy. Read much Bit?

    Maybe you should find a blog with training wheels dude…

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  44. [...] Hat tip: Outside the Beltway [...]

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  45. Cui bono?

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  46. schlang says:

    This is so typical of Obama camp’s socialist ways! He has been controlling the media with all of his money since the primaries! He has all of the major network news stations bought out too!

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  47. Hal says:

    Yea! It’s not like Obama is wire tapping without warrants, holding citizens without bail and access to counsel, and colluding with the media in a pentagon run propaganda campaign. I mean, who does this guy think he is, shutting down blogs that measure their hits per day in single digits.

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  48. Gina says:

    This effort by Obama and his supporters to rig the process, by using technicalities to prevent the opposition from competing reminds us of how Obama Used technicalities to eliminate his competition in the Chicago elections, as well as depriving Michigan and Florida citizens from voting in the primaries. It further appears that Obama and his over zealous supporters will say, or do anything to get him elected. In addition, Google, as well as other major media sources, seem to have no problem looking the other way, while denying their complicity in stacking the deck in favor of Obama.

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