Monday, February 05, 2007

The spreading shadow

Another blog has been censored by WordPress. A Swedish blogger called Isabella Lund, who writes a political blog about prostitution in Sweden had it suspended temporarily. Another blogger was censured when she tried to raise the subject on the WordPress Forum. Add that to the delisting of JanieBelle, Corporal Kate, Censor This and Crowded Head Cozy Bed, and you start to see a pattern emerging.
A point made by Bloggenbent is important:
"This identifies a state of affairs that have always been there, but which may not have been apparent. Since most of the Swedish blogosphere is dependent on American service providers like and it may be that Swedes will have to abide by the most narrow of moral codes in US society."
And that is the wider issue of this situation. The Blogosphere exists currently on the whim of the American Government. Fortunately, at present, they are favourably disposed towards freedom of speech. But if they were to turn towards a more authoritarian or Dominionist mindset, we might see curbs on what subject matter would be acceptable to service providers. Imagine a Blogosphere with no criticism of the US administration or established religion permitted.
Blogs are becoming more influential, and having an effect on the political process. They are also outside political control. The only way to rein them in is to lean on the service providers, who are subject to US law.
WordPress itself may not survive the bad publicity. Once it becomes generally known that it's censoring blogs, bloggers will think twice about signing up to them. I know I certainly have.


Joshua said...

I'm not sure why everyone is focusing on Wordpress. I used to be on MSN Spaces, they do the same thing. Actually much worse. They close down your blog with nothing more than an email letting you know they're doing such. Blogger does it also, but it's harder to tell because they don't have an internal tagging system like wordpress where you can discern what they've done. You just don't show up in their 'next blog' option anymore - and may just be left wondering why your readership went down :)

Deacon Barry said...

Hi Joshua. You have a good point. Tag dropping and delisting can be regrettably used by any blog host. I am also inclined to regard the WordPress situation as a system problem rather than malevolent censure. The focus on WordPress comes about because it happened to JanieBelle, and it has been picked up by others - myself included. It could easily have been another bloghost.
The problem is that this delisting feature in the Host's software, which is designed as a safety feature to prevent child access to unsuitable blogs, is too blunt an instrument for the purpose. The criticism of WordPress may be 'shrill', but if they look at their software and try to work something out that's less heavy handed, then I will applaud them.

Interrobang said...

If all the blogging services that currently exist start censoring things that people in the free world (that is, outside of the US) want to and are legally permitted to read, probably new, non-US-based blogging services will start up. That said, you can run a blog on your own website if you own a domain name and stuff. It's slightly harder than using Blogger (I actually run a site of my own for my job, since I'm a consultant), but it can certainly be done.

That said, by what law can they even censor "erotica" online? Even hard-core pornography is not, so far as I know, illegal for people over 21 in the US, so I think they're treading on some pretty shaky First Amendment grounds.

I'd say the best strategy is to fight this vigourously, while looking into people or organisations who could start a non-US-based blogging service. For that matter, it's about damn time the rest of the world built its own internet backbone, because most of the world's internet traffic still passes through servers that are physically located in the US, and that could get sticky later on.