14 August 2021

A canary in the censorship coal mine

One of the right-wing blogs I've been reading to keep up with wingnut "thinking" is Vox Popoli (sic), which until recently was, as my own blog is, on the Google Blogger platform.  It's certainly one of the more "out there" blogs I've seen, a veritable encyclopedia of talking points against the covid-19 vaccines, and also regularly promoting militant Christian nationalism, stolen-election stuff, an obsessive hostility to "boomers", and anti-Jewish conspiratardia, though the latter was more pervasive in the comment threads than in the posts.  Still, it is necessary to know what the enemy is saying, unfiltered and in their own words, and the sample must include some of the more radical.  The blog does have a substantial following, judging by the comment threads, which routinely exceeded 100 comments in length.

A couple of days ago, though, Vox Popoli's URL started re-directing to this (click to enlarge):
More recently the warning message has changed to "under review for possible Blogger Terms of Service violations", so it's possible it may be restored -- but that may not matter.  In less than a day, a replacement blog was up, also called "Vox Popoli" (still misspelled) but not hosted on Google Blogger.  The original blog's posts -- almost 18 years' worth of them -- carried over, though their comment threads didn't.

On the one hand, a lot of the content over there was pretty repulsive.  On the other hand, the existence and appeal of such content is part of the reality we need to be aware of, and I was very annoyed when the blog was initially rendered unviewable.  I'm grown up and I don't need anybody telling me what I can and can't read.  More fundamentally, the Chomsky quote above expresses a core value of mine.  Support for free expression of opinion must be content-neutral, or it's meaningless.

In response to the predictable "the First Amendment only applies to the government, blah blah blah," notice that I'm not talking about the First Amendment here, but about freedom of expression of opinion as a general principle, above and beyond any one law in just one country which defends it (imperfectly, as is the case with all laws).  Yes, Google Blogger is a private entity which has the legal right to refuse to host content it objects to, but if you're going to run a platform for bloggers at all, you really need to bend over backwards to be as tolerant as you possibly can.  The nature of blogging demands it.

(Note that I do not know the specific trigger which caused Blogger to suddenly crack down after 18 years.  I suppose it's possible that Vox Popoli posted something not qualifying as free expression of opinion, such as clear-cut threats against a specific individual -- but I've seen no sign of that.)

I'm also very conscious of the fact that there are people out there who would very much like to see me silenced, and I suppose it's possible they may succeed someday, one way or another.  And if you have a blog, then believe me, the same is almost certainly true of you.  Unless your posted content is totally innocuous and never discusses anything remotely controversial or potentially offensive to anyone (and perhaps even then), there's somebody out there who considers it an outrageous injustice that you're allowed to say what you think.

So we should all actually be glad that Vox Popoli was able to create a work-around relatively quickly.  I gather some substantial preparation was involved.  Be aware that you may someday need to do the same.

[Reminder -- I don't allow comments which try to support or justify censorship (explanation here).  It's the principle of the thing.]


Blogger SickoRicko said...

I started with Blogger in May 2007 and have had issues with them once in a while. But hey, I get what I pay for.

14 August, 2021 08:58  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

A lot of people have been having problems with Blogger lately. I keep seeing my Blogger friends complaining about the problems on Twitter. But this might not have anything to do with that.

14 August, 2021 10:45  
Blogger Mike said...

I'm glad you keep up with the other side. I've had Facebook friends unfollow me after I prove their conspiracy theories wrong over and over.

14 August, 2021 11:14  
Anonymous Mark Alexander said...

After blogging some very anti-Bush/Republican sentiments in the early 2000s (and not knowing at the time my physical address was available for all to see via whois—promptly corrected!), I received a box of rotting meat at my home from a bogus address in the Love Canal (yes, *that* Love Canal) area of Niagara, NY. I'm not sure what message was trying to be conveyed, but the USPS was uninterested in investigating the matter.

14 August, 2021 11:17  
Blogger Tundra Bunny said...

"Those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
-- Voltaire

14 August, 2021 13:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ricko: I've never had issues with content-based censorship myself. It's just that I'm always alert to the possibility.

Mary K: I think there are ongoing glitches with the new post editing interface. Just technical issues, though.

Mike: I never try to argue with them -- it's not my thing. But it's necessary to be aware of what they're saying.

Mark: That definitely sounds like an implicit threat or at least harassment. There are plenty of people out there who will try to censor you that way, so preserving as much anonymity as possible is a necessity.

Tundra: True, although I'm not sure how it relates to the censorship issue.

15 August, 2021 00:28  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Deleted Anon: "Doxing pro choice doctors with rifle scope" is clearly a threat and not an expression of opinion, therefore it has nothing to do with what I'm talking about here. As to censoring people who tell outright lies, that puts the government in the position of determining what the truth is -- and the government at any given time could be run by people like DeSantis or Trump (or by liberals who are right on most things but would censor, for example, dissent on the trans nonsense). That's far more dangerous than just letting people like anti-vaxers or flat-Earthers speak freely and refuting them. The proper response to wrong speech is more speech to debunk it, not censorship.

I deleted your comment in accordance with this (as warned in the last paragraph of the post). Since you apparently believe that some people should be denied the right to explain and defend their opinions, it's appropriate that you be denied an opportunity to explain and defend yours.

15 August, 2021 00:36  
Blogger Jack said...

I think you are right about this. In order for free expression to have any meaning at all, it has to include the expression of ideas I find detestable. The moment I'm willing to shut down someone else's blog because I don't like what it says, I have to accept that mine will be next. And like you said, I'd rather know that various attitudes are out there than be oblivious to their existence.

15 August, 2021 04:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Unfortunately true. Once we let the government, or even gargantuan tech companies, decide the range of acceptable opinion, we have no basis for objecting when that government has someone like Trump calling the shots.

15 August, 2021 09:45  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

haven't had any trouble with blogger but facebook puts me in jail allll the fecking time

15 August, 2021 16:49  

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