UPDATE on the WordPress.com #FAIL: the Alexandria blog has been restored

by Angelique on June 24, 2010

Alexandria logoYesterday 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.

graphic of a newspaper saying 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.

ban WordPress iconLet 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 info@afmarcom.com or 602.735.3107.

[ Shortlink: http://bit.ly/ci5QiJ ]

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

giania June 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

FWIW – Not everyone is back to normal. I still get “account suspended” when trying to log in. At this point I’m wondering if it’s a cookie issue rather than a permissions issue, but I haven’t had time to investigate it properly.

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Noto June 24, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.Any way Ill be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon

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DSL. June 25, 2010 at 1:33 am

Cross-posted (under moderation) with Giania at RKNet Blog… thing:

Almost all my comments at Alexandria over the last two months or so have gone straight to the spam trap, triggering an immediate email from me to Stuart requesting cache and release. So I post this comment here instead.

Contrary to popular belief inspired by the Stuart-WordPress exchange, I never removed the “offending” post, having discovered no reason whatever to do so, and nor, by the way, did I “write” about the English legal case at issue. My whole post was one long illustrated link-roundup of comical odd-news items taken from similar pages at two sites specializing in such, Anorak and Izismile, whose names I spoofed in my post title “Anoraki Insurgency, and, Here’s Izismiling at You, Kid”.

My original post was still live as of May 28, 2010 when it was cached, a good month or more after I had deleted myself from the dashboard and thus severed my connection as an author with Alexandria. Indeed, I had sent way back on March 28, 2010 my final post of any kind as an author, “If I ever meet YOU! in a dark alley, I’ll punch your goddamn lights out…”, a lighthearted tribute to that Alexandria spam filter which had already commenced its junkie habit of snatching away immediately from daylit glory all my comments to posts both my own and from others.

The deletion of the “offending” 14-month-old post had to have come between May 28, 2010, and June 24, 2010 possibly by WordPress staff, since Stuart, as he said, didn’t do it. More accurately, between June 8, 2010, when I tallied up my still-live (even as of today; you may put to rest another of the Alexandrian legends here, that of the deletion of my archive as an author there, see below) post archive at 691 posts*, and June 24, 2010, when I noticed the tally had dropped by one to 690 surviving posts.

Cached versions of the original item at Anorak are themselves still up, on three archived pages, with URLs ending, as you can see, with tags to archived pages 79, 82 and 83 (several other cached pages on the results page below, missing my search phrase in yellow at the top, no longer contain the news item at issue):

http://www.google.com/#q=%22to+strike+out+Ms+Sheikh%E2%80%99s+claim+on+the+ground%22&num=100&hl=en&safe=off&filter=0&fp=71611131acff80b7

Those Brits have strict libel laws.

*From my comment at Saratoday (which, being a WordPress blog, sent the comment to the discretionary moderation of its owner): “My 28-page archive at Alexandria, all 691 entries, the late and wiped Taberna excepted, is here,

http://aleksandreia.wordpress.com/author/scott3362/

and makes for superb bathroom reading, tub and shower not excepted (oh, like I’m the only one to take my laptop when I lather my moptop, lave my nave’ and scrub my shrub…). For cherry-picking highlights, let my rococo post titles be your twisted guide to an even more twisted guy.”

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Angelique June 25, 2010 at 5:33 am

DSL — You’re not going to believe this, but your comment here went to my “spam trap,” too! I really don’t know why, unless it’s because your initials happen to be “DSL” or the post is really long, or you have a notorious IP address. I host this site myself using the Wordpress.org platform, so it’s not because any third party is moderating the blog, but I do have software that watches for naughtiness. Now I’M curious about what is sending you to the spam filter.

Out of curiosity, I went to look at the original item on Anorak, it looks like it’s gone, too. I DID look at your Alexandria archive; love the fist-punching-through-paper graphic.

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Angelique June 25, 2010 at 5:37 am

Spam filter update: Noto’s comment also went to the filter! I will definitely be looking into this! Thanks for the kind words and for subscribing, Noto!

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DSL. June 25, 2010 at 6:32 am

I can’t imagine any notoriety attaching to my IP address. I am the only user at my address and at my two laptops. I have never received a warning from anyone over improper comments, emails or offensive content. Though Giania, at her site this morning, mentioned that the presence of multiple links was the likely culprit, I stress that *all* my comments to Alexandria (“a WordPress blog”, much as SC Johnson, per its telly spots, is “a family company”), with links or without, of half a sentence in length or a hundred, get trapped. Thus my fisted, mushroom-clouded defiance of said filter in my final post, linger though I did as a commenter long after.

By the way, your spam filter is not all bad – Noto’s previously-trapped comment above has all the classic earmarks of trackback spam: generic, anodyne praise for your site and/or post, with no reference whatever to the actual content of the triggering post, and a username linked to a link-aggregating site focused on a certain topic or industry, with no sight of actual interacting commentary on the topic at hand by a discernible human. In our two years jointly cleaning the spam filters at Alexandria, Stuart and I ran into such obvious trackback spam literally dozens of times daily, world without end, and I have no doubt whatever from wearied experience that Noto richly earned its trapping.

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Angelique June 25, 2010 at 12:40 pm

DSL — I had to fish you out of the filter again! Just as well, I guess; I edited your comment to highlight the parts I think my readers care most about: evil spam filters.

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DSL. June 25, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I understand completely. I’m just happy that you and Giania, at whose site the full version of comment #6 appears, have opened up space in which I can air what I know about the whole thorny picture. I can’t do it at Alexandria, first because of the reflexive trapping, then because of the departure of moderator Stuart. I’d love to see all authors there ditch WordPress.com and craft a better platform, one not triggering these “bunches of five” (Graham Chapman) I have just south of each wrist to join forces in righteous unison…

Captcha: and vicious (positively psychic!)

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DSL. June 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Hey, that last one went through straightaway. Maybe Giania’s theory about multiple links holds water – though as I mentioned about my Alexandria luck proper, links or no, the trapping was constant. Ah, well. Soon all will find their respective solutions, alone or in concert. If the latter, we’ll pass the hat for a $30 kitty, and call the concert resulting Three Tenners

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