Monday, August 01, 2016

via Vox: A writer kept a blog for 10 years. Google deleted it. Why?--a riff on the ways in which blogs are subject to service hosts

Over the years a handful of people wondered if I've backed up stuff at the blog.  I have.  I've had it suggested a time or two that loyalists of a now defunct brand might try to pull some kind of stunt.  That seemed unlikely compared to, say, Google doing some unilateral move.  One commenter tried to pass themselves off as a moderator claiming the blog was abusive years ago.  The blog is still here, but that doesn't mean Google hasn't unilaterally removed blogs.  For some people who may or may not be in touch with the real world the possibility of suits might be in their thoughts, but I've heard of more cases where a blog just gets taken down for breaching user guidelines.
No one seems to understand why Google shut down Cooper’s blog — including Cooper himself
Cooper says his best guess regarding what happened is that one or more of his posts about male escorts triggered a Google censor. However, he insists there was nothing in them that violated any of Blogger’s content policies, which prohibit blogs that "contain ads for or links to commercial porn sites" as well as sexually explicit images posted without the subject’s consent. He also noted that, per Blogger guidelines, The Weaklings carried a warning that his content contained adult material.

As readers will know by now, any racy content discussing sex published here will have been documenting things published by one guy who used to be a preacher in these parts.  None of that, racy though it was, would fit that set of restraints.

Since the blog was shut down, over 3,000 fans and supporters have signed a petition urging Google to reinstate both The Weaklings and Cooper’s email account. Literary nonprofit group PEN America has also joined the cause. And while Cooper says he’s been unable to access any of his lost content and still doesn’t know what precipitated its deletion, he did tell Vox that this week, he finally heard from lawyers at Google, in what will hopefully be a first step toward reinstating his account.
When asked to comment on the situation, a Google spokesperson informed Vox, "We are aware of this matter, but the specific terms of service violations are ones we cannot discuss further due to legal considerations."

Cooper’s vanishing blog raises larger implications about the sanctity of content online [emphasis original]

This could be one of the simplest reasons the mainstream press will not stop being important any time soon. 

"I was very naive not to back-up my work and to think that what I was doing would be safe," Cooper said.

It’s worth noting, as Fusion editor Ethan Chiel did in the aforementioned episode of Press Play, that the practice of storing information in "the cloud" is a nebulous one. "The 'cloud' is just someone else’s hard drive," he said, emphasizing that information and content we think of as "safe" simply because it’s located on a secure online platform can, in reality, be just as vulnerable to mishap and misplacement as files and information saved directly on our own computers.

I'll come back to this point at a later point in the post but I've never been a fan of clouds that weren't the kind to make for a great overcast Seattle day.

Yet as more people relocate their precious content — be it email, original writing, a lifetime’s worth of photos, etc. —to online storage systems and infrastructures, questions of who and what is safeguarding that content are rarely asked.

"The lesson is that you can't trust any platform," Cooper continued. "I mean, I would never have imagined that my email account containing 10 years of my emails and correspondence could be shut down and taken away from me [for] no reason at all, but that's exactly what happened." He cautioned that anyone working online, particularly artists, writers, and bloggers, should be careful about the amount of faith they put into services like Google to protect their works.

"If I get my content back, I will relocate the blog to a new host," he said.

But if anything, the ultimate takeaway is that no online platform that’s owned by someone else is ever really safe from censorship or deletion — especially if you create content that’s just a bit off the beaten path.
As blogging about the history of what was once Mars Hill goes all that stuff has been backed up on a physical drive so that if the blog goes down it's still preserved.  Not much of a fan of cloud storage because clouds and networks aren't necessarily all that secure beyond password protection.  The MH related content has also been redundantly backed up on DVDs distributed to about a dozen people who, by now, are across the country.  Should the blog ever actually go down they have a green light to light up the net (if they wish) with any and everything that has been documented by Wenatchee The Hatchet and even whatever has been researched but not previously discussed.  On the whole it would seem that "if" leaders at Mars Hill had any inkling of this the preference would be to not find out how much background research had been accumulated.  But, at a more important level, it seemed necessary to cultivate a trait that increasingly seemed to be all but absent from the leadership culture that took shape at Mars Hill, and that would be pity.

Not really for Driscoll, because at this point even he might have to concede the possibility that a great deal of his troubles were self-inflicted. No, more a point of having pity for the pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus and for the people who were thrown off that bus when the guys who ran it decided the bus was going to be drivable any more. 

Preserving some kind of document of what happened seemed important and every once in a while stuff will get discussed down the road.  But, obviously, there's such a thing as behaving nicely in ways that service providers find acceptable and if a person doesn't do that a person can find their blogging privileges revoked.  Fortunately that hasn't happened and even more fortunately that's up to peeps at Google rather than the loyalists of a certain former preacher who was once in the Seattle area.

But let's not think for a moment there's no such thing as social responsibility even for bloggers as adjuncts to the mainstream press. 

No comments: