Blogspot harassment experiences?
December 17, 2004 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Blogspot harassment. Anyone have any experience? Google's support response was less than helpful. [mi]

Summary: I'm an admin on a board with some people who came over from another board, and there's some friction. The individual in question is a 16-year-old girl who's being made fun of by some old-enough-to-know-better "adults", to the point where they created a Blogspot site just to repost her posts mainly from our board, and make cruel comments.

My reading of the Terms of Service is that point 6b. of the Blogger TOS gives them Cubby v. Compuserve safe harbor, as it should, even though uner 12. the users agree "not to transmit ... any unlawful, harassing, libelous, abusive, threatening, or harmful material of any kind or nature." I'm more concerned with the Blogspot hosting TOS {scroll down}, though, which is stricter; under 4i. stalking and harassment are prohibited, and under 4a. "Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable" is prohibited, and under 4b, postings that "harm minors in any way" are prohibited. I didn't want to go there, but under 4e. a post "that infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights of any party" is also prohibited.

The site owner contacted Google through Blogger's help form and received this boilerplate disclaimer:


Thank you for your note. Blogger is a provider of content creation tools, not a mediator of that content. We allow our users to create blogs, but we don't make any claims about the content of these pages. In cases where a contact email address is listed on the page, we recommend working directly with the author to have this information removed or changed.

Blogger Support Team

Now, they seem to have missed the reference to Blogspot, or I'm missing something. I don't believe or expect that they would nuke the blog whole, though I wouldn't have been surprised if that happened (when Pyra Labs remained independent, anyway); I just expected a pertinent and informed response as to whether the TOS was deemed violated by someone at Google -- and Lord knows they've been very touchy regarding Google search terms and Google textads (the whole "anti" thing). I'd just be happy if the offending posts were removed, but now I'm wondering if we have to assert copyright to do that, and if so, how one goes about doing that for a community (in spirit, we have an identical policy to MetaFilter's -- the posters own their copyright). As I see things now, though, Google's TOS enforcement is looking rather arbitrary.
posted by dhartung to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
If the copyright is held by the author of the post, it might be that your teenaged poster would have to assert copyright herself. Not that Google would be any more responsive.

A C&D letter to the ones who run the stalker website could simply backfire and embolden them. Perhaps a letter from a lawyer to Google pointing out the nature of the situation and the fact that a minor is involved would do it. It need not be menacingly litigious - simply have it pointed out that it is within their power to shut down the site, or strip posts from it.

If you get a lawyer-friend to do this, I'm sure he or she knows well enough not to claim to represent the minor in question. I'm thinking a polite letter from a dhartung's-buddy lawyer to a Google lawyer might be a faster route than trying to reason with random stalky mooks on the internets.

Anyway, it's a thought.
posted by trondant at 11:42 AM on December 17, 2004

can't we just go over and out-snark them?
posted by andrew cooke at 12:18 PM on December 17, 2004

There we go, andrew...gang-snark!

God knows we've been running a surfeit recently...
posted by LairBob at 12:23 PM on December 17, 2004

This should not, in my opinion, be illegal. If it is, I am very sad, and hate the RIAA/MPAA all the more. If it is not, then I am happy.

This is no more wrong than this thread. In my opinion, you should drop it and your 16 year old friend should avoid looking at the blog. Set your messageboard to only be readable by people with accounts, and moderate all requests for an account. I.e.: vette them yourself. If you care that much about it, it's your responsibility to deal with it the tools you have available, not shut down someone else's harmless (if mean) diversion.

P.s.: it's not stalking. When they start hunting down her address and sending her threats, ok, it's stalking. Right now, it's someone making fun of someone else. Which of course is Not Allowed On The Internet Because The Internet Is Serious Business.
posted by kavasa at 1:31 PM on December 17, 2004

For the boards I administer, we have a mostly-strict policy that things which happen off of the board do not result in punishment on the board. We've had a few notable exceptions:

1. one former moderator creating pornographic images of another former moderator's dead girlfriend and posting them on his site

2. a member exploiting a PHP problem to grab files of a development team affiliated but not part of the site

3. and some others I can't remember properly or at all (I'm sure they're there)

In case 1, the person in question became unstable and had to be removed. In case 2, the member in question had already been banned more than a year earlier and had exhausted any chances given him by the moderating team, myself or the site owner.

Otherwise, we tend to keep things separate. Even the board's IRC channel remains independent of the boards themselves, so that things which happen there exclusively do not result in punishment on the web board. I administer both and don't recall that happening ever.

I think the main idea is that you shouldn't seek redress there. Copyright doesn't even come into it. You're trying to ratchet down what someone else is saying (no matter how putrid) with their own time and resources. As far as I understand, if someone wants to quote you, you're out of luck.

You need to be the adult here, since the adults clearly aren't. You may certainly affect their status on your community, but that may not be wise. Whatever they do within that bailiwick should be stricken with utmost force and inspire your wrath.
posted by Captaintripps at 3:09 PM on December 17, 2004

It's not illegal, but it may be against the Blogspot Terms of Service, and somebody over there should grok that. I would keep bugging them until they got it. (If it were LiveJournal, the Abuse Team would pull it right away; they are sometimes overly quick on the trigger finger, IMHO, but they do respond to that kind of request.)

Here's the thing, though. Your board has, ultimately, 100% control over its membership, and 0% control over the rest of the internets. If I were an admin of the board, I would be wielding my banhammer so fast that it made these clowns' head spin. Isn't it against YOUR Terms of Service? If not, make it so, and tell the offenders that they either cut the shit out or you'll bounce them from your board.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:29 PM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. Some notes for the few who will check back :)

-- the blogger is banned on our board, but is obviously sneaking in and lurking with a different account through a multi-IP anonymizer (talk about your obsessions)
-- the board is private (must be logged in to view), temporarily, but the owner had intended it to be a more welcoming and open place, and this bothers him
-- I don't think this is *illegal* by any stretch (kavasa: I was referencing the harassment wording, not the stalking wording), it's just juvenile; I wouldn't be concerned that much except it's an adults vs. kid thing
-- I do tend to think it's against Blogger's stated TOS and I was surprised they didn't even bother to respond in any way which referenced it
-- for now, it's quiet -- the blogger is not banned on the other board, but has been shamed by the owner there and her co-blogger has said he won't do it anymore

I'm going to hope this situation continues. I'm also recommending that the admin block all referrers from that site, which might help a tiny bit.
posted by dhartung at 11:54 AM on December 18, 2004

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