Fighting for Woolly Days: why Google are thugs and censors
Some of you may remember the other version of my blog Woolly Days on Google’s Blogspot. I founded it in 2005 and since then I have posted 1548 entries with well over a million words. In 2009 I duplicated the content here on WordPress. But all my writings between 2005 and early 2009 are only on Blogspot. Whether those words are worth saving is anyone’s guess but at moment Google does want anyone else to see them. And you cannot visit the site anymore because Google has locked it and made visible to me only as the author.
I’ve always found it difficult to dislike Google. Though they are one of the world’s largest information technology companies driven by profit imperative they continue to have good karma. Evangelists like Jeff Jarvis see them as the gamechanger benchmark constantly asking us in any situation what would Google do? What their search engine did do was revolutionise our relationship to information. Over 10 years they ensured an enormous store of knowledge was no further away than our fingertips.
I still use their search and I also love their maps, even their blogs (I update my second site Irish I’s irregularly where I post anything I see that amuses me.) But my experiences with them are increasingly dominated by their thuggish practices.
On January 20, 2013 I got a terse email from an address called “Google Blogger Support”. However the email’s contents weren’t very supportive. Signed off by the “Google Team”, the email told me Google had received a Terms of Service complaint regarding malicious code on my blog. “After conducting our review, and in accordance with Google’s Terms of Service, we have removed the content at issue,” the “Google Team” said.
They provided links to the Terms of Service and their Content Policy but there was no explanation which element I was in breach of or what code was malicious. Was it some content that offended someone? Who knows and there were plenty of words bound to offend someone. Google wouldn’t say who made the complaint or how I could respond to the charge.
I responded immediately to the address “Blogger Support” that sent me the email. I replied this was absolutely outrageous, “Woolly Days is a respected blog of 7 years standing,” I said. “It covers serious issues of politics and media with over a million words. Why on earth has it been deleted without Snyder eexplanation (sic,)? Please undo this disgraceful unwarranted action. Even a quick look would assure anyone of its merits.”
I was angry when I wrote it and in my hurry it had a very curious mistake.My “Snyder eexplanation” is a combination of a typo and ‘damn you autocorrect’ moment – it meant to read ‘any explanation’. Why my Google powered Android phone changed “any” to “Snyder” is anyone’s guess. But I need not have been embarrassed by that or worried that Google would pay any attention to my screed.
I got the standard auto reply “Unfortunately, we are unable to answer email that is sent directly to this email address.” They gave me places to go if I wanted help with a technical issue, answers from the help forum, wanted to learn about features or even if I wanted to report a violation of Blogger’s Terms of Service. But there was no place to go if you were a victim of such a report.
The blog remains visible to me, but no one else can see it. On my blogger dashboard, I found it was listed as a locked blog but I could request an unlock review. I did so but received no reply. When I next logged onto the dashboard I saw another cryptic message that the blog was “in violation of Blogger’s Terms Of Service”. They advised me to “fix the problem” before Google would re-review.
But what was the problem? The Google terms of service are 1691 words long and I have no idea whether I am violating all of it or some sentence of it. Frustrated, I got rid of a few things they mentioned might be issues that I thought were harmless. So I removed the html code for my stat counters and a few modest ads. But that didn’t help. I put in a second unlock review after I removed the possibly offending content. Google responded with silence. I remain in a Kafkaesque world guilty of some unknown offence with no way of redressing the problem.
I don’t know what the ‘malicious code’ (and doubt I have the html skills to be really malicious) nor do I how what the TOS violation is, but I suspect it is a very minor infraction of inconsistently-applied rules. I still want Google to unlock my blog though I will never update it again. Blogspot is their platform but Woolly Days is a part of the public record and Google have no right to interfere with it. It is the behaviour of thugs and censors.