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Google Deletes Blogger Posts

Bloggers Upset With Lack of Warning

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Update: This article is nearly a year old, but pretty much the same thing is happening again (or still). A number of popular music blogs have been removed from Blogger, some are saying without warning. When we covered this before, Blogger Product Manager Rick Klau left us the following comment (as seen in the comments section):

Hi – I’m a product manager on Blogger, and I wanted to clarify a few things. Google only removes content when legally obligated, and under U.S. law, we are required to take down content when we receive a valid DMCA notice. When we we do this, we send an email to the blogger using the address associated with their account and submit the original DMCA notice to chillingeffects.org. If a blogger wishes to challenge the DMCA notice, they can file a counter notice, at which time the original DMCA complainant has 14 days to file suit, or we will reinstate the removed content. The whole policy is explained in more detail here: http://www.google.com/blogger_dmca.html.

A good reminder for our users is to ensure that the e-mail address associated with their blog is valid and an address they check regularly; any DMCA-related notices we send are sent to that address. You can also find more info or ask questions in our support forum at http://groups.google.com/group/blogger-help.

At Blogger Buzz, the official blog for Blogger, Klau says:

Last summer, we updated our enforcement of the DMCA. Our current policy is that when we receive a DMCA complaint, we:

  • Notify the blogger about the complaint by e-mail and on the Blogger dashboard.
  • Reset the offending post to ‘draft’ status, allowing the blogger to remove the offending content.
  • Send a copy of the complaint to ChillingEffects.org.

When we receive multiple DMCA complaints about the same blog, and have no indication that the offending content is being used in an authorized manner, we will remove the blog.

 

Original Article: Ryan Spaulding is a music blogger from Boston who runs the blog Ryan’s Smashing Life, which is hosted by Google’s Blogger. For some reason Blogger has been deleting some of his posts.

This story was unearthed earlier this month in an LA Weekly article that found the same thing happening to a number of Blogger users. I got in touch with Ryan to find out what he had to say about the situation, and the following interview is the product of that (Not all of Ryan’s opinions necessarily reflect those of WebProNews).

Chris Crum:  First off, can I get a little background on the story in your words?

Ryan SpauldingRyan Spaulding: Beginning last summer, I slowly began to notice that several older posts were beginning to disappear. This didn’t come to my attention for some time since I wasn’t in the habit of reading old posts except when I pulled down the material. Sometimes I received emails from frustrated readers who were looking for a topic I had written on – only to find the post deleted.

I had no reason to think this was anything other than a software glitch at first. There were no takedown notices or emails in my inbox. Then the instances began stacking up – and I began comparing notices with other bloggers. What was initially a series of seemingly unconnected blog post disappearances – by fall, became the topic of discussion in blogger emails and chat rooms. The change of tactic of the industry and the poor handling of  it by blog-host Blogger (Google) was being seen as a conspiracy.

I have come to love blogging and the integration of a myriad of software add-ons to the blog. Like the vast majority of bloggers, I am not paid for my time, creativity or passion. It is because of my passion for this thing that many of us have come to feel betrayed when we learn that the host of our websites is now in the business of deleting our posts without warning! (It’s an issue of respect. Blogger has proven that they do not respect their own users. Despite the merits of our prior good conduct and years of loyal use of their blogging platform and software – we are considered guilty before having a chance to demonstrate our innocence or at the very least have a chance to pull down the offending material.) Yes, it’s an issue of respect.

CC:  How many other bloggers have you spoken with that have had similar experiences?

RS: About a dozen or more to start, but since the piece ran in LA Weekly, I have received email from dozens more vocalizing their support.

CC: Can you tell me exactly what the deleted posts consisted of?

RS:
The types of posts removed break down into two basic groups:

The Deletion of Unsolicited Promotional Posts: A few of these missing posts were "unapproved" posts on signed bands. This means I promote a band’s project and use an mp3 I had seen given away in other locations on the web, and then wrote lengthy pieces, breaking down the songs into their themes and reviewed them based on merit. All pieces were positive and promotional in nature. I tend to not write negative reviews on music;  it runs contrary to the underlying theme of the blog – to support musicians whose work I enjoy. While it hurt to see these posts disappear (why wasn’t I simply contacted to remove the material? ), ultimately I understood the rules about such things.

The Deletion of Solicited Promotional Posts (They Ask Me to Support the Band): What was truly upsetting was the loss of material that was approved by the labels and the bands themselves. Since I do very few Unsolicited Promo pieces, this is the lion’s share of posts that are deleted. This is at the core of the problem: More than a dozen of these at last count – each requiring four hours or more apiece – were deleted out of my account and without warning.

Google chooses it’s bed and makes bloggers lay in It. Blogger/Google had the opportunity to choose its tactic when receiving notices. First of all, they could have delineated between longstanding reputable bloggers and those suspected to be leakers. They chose not to do this. Blogger/Google treats everybody the same (the good and the bad!) –They also could have chose the tactic to notify the bloggers of the demand and let us comply. They chose to not take this tactic either and simply delete the posts. Later, they altered this tactic slightly by going ahead and deleting the post and then, later, sent an email explaining their position. The end result is the same. To illustrate how utterly frustrating this is, I will outline what takes place start-to-finish: 

Ryan's Smashing Life

I’m a choosy blogger. Each month, I receive many, many albums – both in the mail and through digital. These are always accompanied by a press release asking to promote the band, their album project and tour. In the case when the bands/music labels/PR houses/publicists ask me to use a specific post when I publish the material then I comply. I use the material they request. 

All of these steps serve to make me an authorized agent for the label. [I fully understand that I do not own the material and need to pull it down immediately if ever asked. This is implicitly understood.]

CC:  Have you contacted Google about the issue, and if so, what kind of response did you receive?

RS: They never responded. An "opportunity" (in legalese, of course) offered a means to have the post restored – but like most bloggers, I didn’t have the knowledge or time to fight "city hall" on every post. Especially, since Blogger/Google didn’t even take five minutes to send a simple email response. Nothing professional, nothing courteous. Again, the tactic they choose belies their basic lack of respect for their users – which is why I took up the cause. They have a relative monopoly on blog hosting services and rule with an iron fist.

Ryan Spaulding

CC:  Are you concerned that your blog’s reputation might be hurt when people click through to it from other sites, only to find that the content they’re looking for has been removed? How has the removal of these posts impacted your blog’s traffic?

RS: This is very hard to detect and prove. New people are coming in every day. But if you take a page out of economic studies, the value of "Opportunity Costs" are difficult to measure. If you are a first-time reader and you receive a dead link – you may never return.

CC:  Have you detected any loss in readership?

RS: Loyal readers were the ones to actually bring the deletions to my attention. I don’t think I could shake some of these people – they have truly become friends. But as with the prior example, some readers who have not been with the page long – predictably grow irritated at the absence of written material on the page when they repeatedly get dead links. And, they delete their bookmarks and go away.

CC:  Did you contact the RIAA? If so, what kind of response did you get from them?

RS: Actually, I firmly believe the majority of the posts weren’t pulled down on RIAA requests – the majority of these came through miscommunication at the label-level. The EU branch of the label doesn’t talk to the US labels. Sometime after the post goes live (with complete approval of the US label) the European branch contacts their legal department when they find the post promoting the band on my site. They choose to not recognize (or simply do not have visibility to the arrangement) and send an email to the IFPI (the British version of the RIAA). This group demands takedown from Blogger/Google.

I’d like to thank Ryan for taking the time to talk about this. Those interested in this story might also find Last.fm’s story interesting.

Update: Blogger Product Manger has weighed in on the situation in the comments section.

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  • http://www.jenkaufman.com/ Cory H

    This article really causes concern to me, as it would appear that Google is systematically blocking your/our right to free speech.

    It is one thing to block a particular blog post, be it sponsored or un-sponsored, from passing SEO value, but it is entirely different to wholly delete the post.

    Yes, they own Blogger, the server and probably all content posted to it… I haven’t read their TOS recently.

    But overall, deleting your posts is total HORSESH** IMHO. Google is not God and should not have the ability to “remove” information that you published. They do not own the Internet.

    If they didn’t bother to check if you had the rights to publish the MP3, etc. then they shouldn’t be able to delete the posts.

    Hopefully your story and/or the collective thoughts of bloggers worldwide can help increase the visibility of this issue.

  • http://tins.rklau.com/ Rick KLau

    (This is a copy of a comment I left on the LA Weekly article as well.)

    Hi – I’m a product manager on Blogger, and I wanted to clarify a few things. Google only removes content when legally obligated, and under U.S. law, we are required to take down content when we receive a valid DMCA notice. When we we do this, we send an email to the blogger using the address associated with their account and submit the original DMCA notice to chillingeffects.org. If a blogger wishes to challenge the DMCA notice, they can file a counter notice, at which time the original DMCA complainant has 14 days to file suit, or we will reinstate the removed content. The whole policy is explained in more detail here: http://www.google.com/blogger_dmca.html.

    A good reminder for our users is to ensure that the e-mail address associated with their blog is valid and an address they check regularly; any DMCA-related notices we send are sent to that address. You can also find more info or ask questions in our support forum at http://groups.google.com/group/blogger-help.

    Thanks,

    Rick Klau
    PM, Blogger
    Google

    • Chris Crum

      Thank you for weighing in Rick.

    • Deleted by Google

      Rick is a lying pig. Rick would you say this under oath? If so I’ll have you deposed at my expense. Are you willing to let me film you saying this under oath while being filmed for youtube (yet another Google property)? If so, come back here and let use know. Face it, Rich, you’re just a paid stooge parroting the Google garbage. We all know Google employees delete blogs with which they have political disagreements. You’re lies are just damage control

  • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron

    people don’t seem to understand as I have pointed out many times before that it is VERY IMPORTANT to keep full backups of everything that you write in a location that is under YOUR control. google & other services free or paid sometimes for reasons of their own rightly or wrongly on purpose or accidentally delete stuff. If you have a copy on your own computer & backed up in case of computer failure then there would not be any need for the ” please can I have my information back” requests you just re upload it if it is removed again you upload it somewhere else! better to have your own website/space so you have full control ( even better your own server if you can afford it) so this problem does not occur in the first place. I am just going to copy this piece before sending in case it does not go through so I don’t have to type again!…

  • Deleted by Google

    What the Google liar, uh, “representative” says is crap. Google and it’s employees delete all kinds of political stuff with which they disagree, esp. right wing blogs. I’m not talking about Nazi or KKK stuff, just the regular right of center politics. In Chapel Hill NC there was a blog that got TONS of hits called “Illegal Immigration in Chapel Hill” that “magically disappeared one day after racking up about 400,000 hits. Seems it got to popular for someone at Google. Other anti tax and anti Obama Blogger blogs have suddenly vanished in the last six months. Don’t believe it? Ask here, on this or any site and you’ll find tons of people who has blogs on Blogger who suddenly found months of work vanished when going back to work on a (right wing) Blogger Blog. This has been happening for years but has come to a serious head in the last six months or year, most likely because of the support of Obama by the Google hierarchy. If you want a blog that isn’t in line with the politics of the Google Gods, best get one somewhere other than on Blogger. If you want a Blog about porn movies, having sex with your dog, or anything sucking up to left wing causes, you’ll do fine with a Blogger Blog.

  • http://www.indiesurf.com Darren Tan

    The best way to avoid this is to have your own domain. When you have a blogspot account, it’s not you who have the full control over you blog. It’s Google who have the full control.

    • http://www.astronomytelescopes.net astronomy telescopes

      Totally agree – if I had a website of any interest or value it would be on it’s own domain

  • http://www.revit-tutorials.net extreme

    there should be right to write law for writing any thing in blog
    a blog is a personal medium to express ideas.

  • http://DONSCYCLEWARE.COM Don

    I am not a Google apologist, however it sounds like the record companies who’s bands you are promoting are at fault. If as you say
    the European branch contacts their legal department when they find the post promoting the band on my site then they are the source of your trouble. Then it is obvious that Google is responding to a demand from the IFPI / RIAA.

    As you have discovered, Google like all Internet entities depends heavily on automated systems to perform as many tasks as possible. If you are expecting a personal letter from someone to discuss this matter you are out of luck. If you want to continue to use Google’s free services get used to it. It’s their game and it’s played by their rules.

    Some suggestions:

    * Take a few minutes to determine how to respond via Google’s policies. Did you check: http://www.google.com/blogger_dmca.html .

    * Get your own URL and set up your own site. It’s not difficult or expensive.

    * Hopefully you have a back up. If not, start backing up your posts. It is probably work trying Google’s Way back machine to find your deleted posts.

    * Contact the record companies and try to get them to get their act together. After all they are apparently responsible for your troubles in the first place.

    Good Luck,

    Don

    • http://www.medlawplus.com Joe

      Sorry but the post does strike a google apology tone. Google is an extremely profitable company. I have set up blogs on blogger that were tied into products sold on my commercial website. Google notified me that a bot had flagged it as spam and froze the account while a human editor reviewed the posts. The human editor confirmed that my blogs were not spam and released the account. This is what should have happen in the case of Ryan Spaulding and all similar bloggers. The issue comes down to money and google is not really in a position to plead poverty. There are many other free blogging sites out there. If the blogger cannot have faith in the fairness of google in hosting his content, then it gives writers the incentive to move their content to other hosts.

  • http://www.snerdey.com Snerdey

    Create your own website created especially for your content so it looks awesome. Get all the post going and I know this will take time but then when you have enough on it post a message saying your website has been moved or blast it out whatever.

    If you content is important to you and others. It’s best to either know the TOS forwards / backwards so you don’t have this happen. You don’t have the right to break any rules of TOS but you do have the right to own your own domain and create your own space on the web.

    Totally ticked to see 400,000 hits drop to nothing overnight.

    By the way I’d recommend a Joomla Kit :)

    Follow Snerdey on Twitter!

  • http://www.elevatingshoes.com Any

    Why blogger will be deleted? i think it is not good !

  • http://arseman.com Arseman

    A few of my older posts have gone walkies, too…

  • http://thewillfulobscurist.blogspot.com The Willful Obscurist

    ..if any of my posts go missing- if the G.L.G (Good Lord Google) decides that my blog (SEO and suchlike, but with anything amusing out of my SPAM folder, too) is SPAM or duplicate content, then surely I will notice stuff going missing quite quickly…

    Google Webmaster tools is the best way to see if any of your posts have left the building- it’s almost like they’re saying ‘heheheh- can you tell what we’ve done..?’

  • http://www.thetruthsoflife.com Jarett

    I just find it amazing that somebody would spend so much time writing something, and not have it saved on their own hard drive (or some sort of backup device). Absolutely everything I write for my various blogs and websites I save in a Word document. It’s not like a document file is even going to come close to filling up a multi-gig HD.

    And while I can see it to be very important (for the safety of humanity/society) for Google to automatically delete posts with no warning on topics like the promotion of terrorism, anarchy and the likes, they really should invest some time in deciding where to draw the line. It’s just music for heaven’s sake!

  • Marc Savoy

    It’s not even that Google is deleting content deemed sacrosanct to those who have toiled to creating it, it’s the manner in which it does it with such brazen impunity that has everyone cowering in fear.

  • http://englishwilderness.blogspot.com John

    An important reminder to backup. I’m going to do mine now!

  • Human Ape

    I have a pro-science anti-religion blog. The previous version of it was vaporized without warning, an entire year of hard work lost forever. Google loves censorship. They censored my entire blog, hundreds of posts, because I didn’t suck up to a deranged Christian asshole who was harassing me.

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