Yesterday I posted the article A Warning to Anyone who uses WordPress.com. I reported the mysterious way in which a multi-author blog, and all of its authors, were suspended without warning by WordPress.com.
This morning there is news: The Alexandria blog has been restored. It’s not all good news however; the incident has prompted Alexandria’s founder to step down as administrator. He feels that he led his authors “into a trap” set by WordPress.com, and he doesn’t want to have that responsibility anymore.
Here’s the story:
In April of 2009, an Alexandria author wrote about a sex scandal in England. He linked to a newspaper article about the scandal. Some time between then an now, the author left Alexandria and removed all of his posts from the Alexandria blog. However, his posts continued to live in the Google cache.
On June 20, 2010, the accused in the sex scandal, who had prevailed in court, wrote to Alexandria owner/administrator H.M. Stuart, saying that “aleksandreia.wordpress.com carries a salacious story about me in the UK press in 2009” and asking that the story be removed. He didn’t say which post troubled him; he offered no title, author or link to the offending post. This lack of basic information, plus the man’s signature, which gave H.M. the impression that the man was pretending to be a lawyer but had no idea how lawyers actually sign their names, lead H.M. to believe that the whole thing was a bad prank.
But apparently the man was serious, and he contacted WordPress.com, claiming the article’s presence on the web defames him because the charges against him have been dropped. WordPress.com immediately shut down the Alexandria account, and the accounts of all of its contributors. This morning WordPress.com sent a message to the Alexandria administrator ordering him to remove the offending post. Of course, the link they provided went to a “404/page not found” page, because the author had removed the post himself months ago.
Let me repeat this: WordPress.com did not check the link sent to them by sex-scandal-man. They just assumed it violated their terms of service and suspended the accounts of everyone associated with the blog.
So Alexandria administrator H.M. had to write back to them and point out their little oversight, namely, they had suspended a blog over a post that doesn’t exist. He also pointed out that he cannot remove a non-existent post.
The WordPress.com accounts and blogs of the Alexandria authors have been restored, and we are now looking for ways to move the blog to a private platform. If you are an Alexandria author, or would like to be, a discussion about the move is going on in the comments section of this blog post by Giania.
In the meantime, several people have asked me to recommend a more customer-oriented blog-hosting service, e.g., one that contacts you about a terms-of-service violation before shutting you down. I don’t have that information, but I’ll be looking into it, and I will be happy to pass on any information that a service, or its happy customers, can send to me.
Have more questions about this subject? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602.735.3107.
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