Sunday, January 3, 2010

Google and free speech

This blog is hosted on Blogger which is now owned by Google. I have found it easy to use and of course it is free. However it appears Blogger has a downside. Blogs are sometimes removed with no advance notice, warnings or explanation. If you are lucky they may reappear a few days later again with no explanation. Here is the story of one such case. Google is within its rights to do this as the Blogger terms of service specify that the service can be discontinued at any time and also require adherence to a rather vague content policy . I don't actually object to the terms as such (although I might not draw the lines in the same place) but the way they are implemented with blogs disappearing without warning, meaningful explanation or transparent avenues of appeal certainly has a chilling effect on free speech.

A really egregious example occurred last night when John Hempton's Bronte Capital financial blog was removed immediately after a post noting among many other things that certain Biden family members do not have as many degrees of separation as one might wish from a bunch of financial frauds. Felix Salmon broke the story . Fortunately for Hempton, he and especially Salmon are well known enough to get Google's attention. Hempton's blog is now up again and Google is claiming it was some sort of technical glitch. It seems likely however that a less prominent blogger could have been in limbo for a considerable period of time.

Perhaps this will embarrass Google into adopting a more reasonable policy. In the meantime it seems prudent to back up your blog regularly.

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