Last week, a Blogger user posted about her impending departure from Blogger. A Blogger “interstitial” began appearing before users could visit her site, warning of potentially objectionable content. Becky believed the interstitial to be politically motivated, and many of the commenters tended to agree with her. I tried to clarify in the comments (search on my name to find the comment) on that post:
To be clear: at no time are any classifications applied to blogs because of their political views. That would be the antithesis of why Blogger was founded ten years ago, and is contrary to everything the team believes about giving our users a platform on which they can speak their mind.
I published my e-mail address on that comment, and in the last week have not received a single e-mail – from Becky or from anyone commenting there. Her post was picked up on Instapundit, and in announcing that she has shut down the blog today, others joined the conversation (Simple Justice, RedState, and Popehat to name a few). The common thread appears to be the conviction that Google was attempting to shut down a blog because we didn’t agree with the views expressed on the blog.
To be clear: we wholeheartedly endorse an individual’s right to express themselves. As I stated in the comment on Becky’s first post, I would hate to lose Becky’s voice in the blogosphere, and would be even more disappointed if Blogger’s actions in any way contributed to her deciding to stop blogging.
That said, Blogger acted exactly as set out in our Terms of Service and our Content Policy: “there are some boundaries on the type of content that can be hosted with Blogger. The boundaries we’ve defined are those that both comply with legal requirements and that serve to enhance the service as a whole.” We specifically outline the scenarios in which an interstitial will apply, including “image and video content that contains nudity” and point out that “we may put such content behind an interstitial.”
We didn’t take the blog down. We didn’t prevent people from reading it (as evidenced by the many comments left on both of her most recent posts). We have in no way acted to prevent, restrict or otherwise skew the debate happening on her blog or any of the others discussing this that are hosted by Blogger. We simply responded to the fact that a number of posts there do, in fact, contain nudity. Visitors to the site flagged the blog as containing objectionable content, and as set out in our TOS, blogs that contain nudity may contain an interstitial to let readers know what they will find when they click through.
I want to be as clear as I can possibly be: I want Blogger to be a platform to encourage the free flow of ideas. Healthy debate from across the political spectrum is absolutely critical in a free society, and I’m proud that millions of users around the world rely on Blogger to publish their opinions.
Update: On Twitter, @popehat suggests that I should have realized that the people complaining were idealogically opposed to Becky (here and here) and that I should have personally used my discretion (here) to ignore those flags and chosen not to apply our TOS to the situation. As I responded, I can’t see how us subjectively applying our standards helps anyone, as it would lead to precisely the situation we’re accused of: deciding which ideas we embrace, and which peoples’ opinions are worth paying attention to. I’d much prefer to objectively apply our stated policies to each situation, so that everyone involved – our users, the readers of blogs, us – know exactly what to expect.