Malicious 'Flag Spammers' Once Again Trick Google Into Censorship

Hours after New York blogger Christian Browne wrote on his blog, “The New York Conservative,” that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be quickly executed, Google shut down his blog, which was hosted on Google's free Blogger service.

While the blog – including the post that appears to have triggered its deletion – have since been restored, the circumstances of its deletion by Google remain murky – and raise a serious issue both for Google and for conservatives who use the web to spread conservative ideas and messages.

Writing on Breitbart.com, Browne explains what happened – and what Google isn't saying about it:

On Monday, the pro-U.S. security group Secure American Now posted a link to my KSM piece on its website. The link received numerous hits and generated multiple comments on the Secure America Now page. However, a few hours after Secure America Now linked to the New York Conservative, I received a form email, no reply possible, from Google Blogger informing me that the New York Conservative had been deleted. The email classified my blog as “spam” in violation of Google’s terms of service. There was no further explanation. My URL was dead; all of the content, everything I ever posted, was gone.


I made two telephone calls to Google to protest and demand a reason for the deletion of my blog. The Google representatives told me that Google does not provide “live support” for Google Blogger, meaning you cannot speak with anyone at all about the deletion. The representatives directed me to the Google Blogger website, where the company extols its commitment to free speech and its great reluctance to censor its bloggers.

Obviously, I do not know why Google deleted my blog, but it's awfully odd that The New York Conservative was summarily executed after a post in which I called for the summary execution of KSM. Could it be that Google found the post politically incorrect and therefore offensive? Could it be that Google thought the post was dangerous because it had potential to incite Islamists? Given the company’s self-proclaimed devotion to free speech, I think Google ought to explain why it deleted the blog. If calling for the legal execution of the confessed mastermind of the murders of 3,000 people on American soil is too controversial a topic for Google Blogger, perhaps the famously progressive company should re-think its proclamation of support for the free exchange of ideas on its platforms.

Browne raises good points about Google, but the episode also raises an important point for conservatives: Depending on Google, Facebook and Twitter as the primary method of disseminating information online puts your message at risk of being deleted by automated filters triggered by the abuse of “flag spam” tools, and technology companies that rely too heavily on automated systems to keep out spammers who try to create fake blogs or social media profiles to promote junk websites.

Unfortunately as I've documented here at NewsBusters repeatedly, there are groups of malicious internet users who have figured out how to target political content with which they disagree and get it removed (usually only temporarily) by "flagging" it as spam or obscenity enough times such that the profile gets automatically deleted by Google, Twitter, etc.

It's time that Google and other user-generated content websites wise up and realize the sad reality that liberals and radical Muslims have no problem abusing the companies' rightful desire not to subsidize speech that is obscene or pure unsolicited advertising. Considering how sophisticated their text analysis software already is, I'm sure a way can be found to protect legitimate websites from being targeted by the online speech police.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013