Boing Boing scrubs links to Violet Blue’s site

Valleywag writes:

Violet Blue, a popular local blogger, columnist, sex educator and contributor to Gawker Media’s smutty sister Fleshbot, seems to have rubbed someone at Boing Boing the wrong way. She discovered that nearly all the posts on the site that mentioned her or her work had disappeared – save for one, a post from last year on the Top 10 Sex Memes from 2006. Shortly after that post was discovered via Google site search, it disappeared as well.

Boing Boing certainly hasn’t gotten squeamish about sexuality if today’s post about a Miami “brothel bus” is any indication. Why is the disappearance an issue? Because Boing Boing wields the awesome power of traffic and Google PageRank, and to bestow such benefits on a blogger and then take them away can be a severe punishment in terms of advertising and affiliate business lost.

Found via Tomorrow Museum, where Joanne McNeil provides additional context and commentary. You can find my comments about the potentially sexist angle of all of this there.

But of greater concern to me is that it happened in the first place and what it means. Like Valleywag says, BB wields a lot of power. They are not just some amateur, DIY fly-by-night blog. They are a professional media organization with the reach and readership of major magazine or newspaper. And it’s hard to read their actions as anything less than an attempt to damage Violet Blue’s livelihood by reducing traffic to her site. They still link to some other raunchy stuff, and to the sex writer Susannah Breslin extensively, so it’s not likely they took the links down at the bequest of an advertiser. And a computer glitch that just happens to delete all posts that link to tinynibbles.com (but nothing else?) seems unlikely (and something they’d have made a statement about by now).

Further, it doesn’t seem that BB is above taking down links to sites runs by people who disagree with them. Rex Sorgatz claims that BB linked to something on his site (I’m guessing this which is still linked at BB Gadgets) because of this post criticizing BB.

Obviously BB has the right to post, not post, or delete whatever they want from their site. But something about all this leaves a fowl taste in my mouth. It’s just bad practice for a professional media outlet bully people like this. “If you say not-nice stuff about us, we’ll take down your links and never link to you again,” is what they seem to be saying. Joanne speculates that bloggers will be quiet about VB being purged from the site because they don’t want to risk the same fate. I hope this is not the case. So far there’s been quite a bit of criticism, but little (if anything) so far from BB’s “in crowd.” (Valleywag, remember, is published by Gawker media, who publish Fleshbot, for which VB writes.)

Update: BB replies

Update 2: Violet Blue’s posts have been restored.

11 Comments

  1. Executor Snorky

    July 1, 2008 at 12:20 am

    I’ve known the boingboingers to be phonies for quite awhile.

    They mostly post links to harmless diversions, although they occasionally toss out a juicy tidbit or two.

    And then there’s the Comments section, which is just a joke. They didn’t even have one for awhile.

  2. Oh, I don’t really mind the comments section – a site that high traffic’s going to need something (though you’d think they’d just implement a slashdot sort of moderation system). I routinely delete comments here. I don’t think of that, or deleting all the links to tinynibbles.com, as “censorship.” I just think deleting links to people who criticize you is a form of bullying by the biggest kid on the block, and it deserves to be called out.

  3. Whew..ok…I’m exhausted, and I give up on trying to link to the sites discussing this again (they’re busy).

    Coming from a site that posts articles promoting transparency and rallies against censorship in government and other public institutions, the hypocrisy is disturbing, Even more disturbing is BB’s lack of discussion about any of this. Any comments about this issue is being deleted on BB. And the folks defending BB at Theresa Hayden’s blog are playing “spinning the strawman”, without answering the questions that the blogosphere wants to know.

    Why were her posts deleted? Was it a technical glitch (doubtful)? Was it personal? Is this a legal issue that can’t be talked about? And the most disturbing thing of all is the length of time between this actully happening, and the silence from BB about the true reason for this deletion.
    (/BoingBoing)

  4. Executor Snorky

    July 1, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    @Klintron

    If I remember correctly, they didn’t even have one for way to long a time.

    Another fun thing that happened; Xeni posted something, and I emailed her about something related. She then posted it on boingboing without my express permission.

    I was unaware that a private email would automatically be posted, since I intended it purely as an FYI. Additionally, there were some slight factual inaccuracies, since I’d written the email off the top of my head.

    This then led to a lengthy debate in the “comments” section, which I could not respond to because it consisted only of BB friends riffing on what I wrote. This was especially irritating given that a serious issue was made light of, and I had no opportunity to respond.

    Now you have to “register” if you want your comments posted. If you don’t “register,” they’ll almost certainly never be posted.

    Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, comments should never be deleted, but I think they should be sorted based on utility and relevance. Comments that are spam should be minimized and sent to the bottom of the page as spam. Comments that are troll-wars should be sent to their own section. Comments that are inane should be down-graded. Only comments that have something substantive to offer should make it to the top of the list.

    It also seems that whoever comments first enjoys inordinate control over the conversation. In BB’s follow-up to their own post, several of them commented at the beginning to spin the conversation even further.

    Finally, if I had to guess, I would say that Violet Blue did something to personally offend one or more of the BBers, probably Xeni, who was always sort of Violet’s champion anyway. So now Xeni yanks her patronage in retaliation; plain and simple. It also probably was nothing that “serious.” If it were “serious” then there would be a journalistic obligation to write about it, wouldn’t there? It was probably something petty and stupid, but something that ended a friendship.

    Also, I love how they pretend to be a “personal” blog, when they routinely post news, make news, and offer up things for sale; and then they’re one of the top blogs; because they are all savvy media professionals who have worked in the industry for years. Who are they kidding?

  5. Snorky – you are correct, they took down their comments section for years until they decided to hire a professional moderator.

    I should probably write an official comment deletion policy at some point, but generally I delete spam and off-topic messages. So far I don’t remember having to deal with any threatening or harassing comments, or hate speech but I’d probably delete that sort of thing too.

    So anyway, I support comment moderation (or the decision not to have a comments system) but it was irresponsible for them to run your private correspondance without asking and not to give you the chance to reply.

  6. Executor Snorky

    July 1, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    The problem with deleting comments and banning users is that it destroys the time and energy the user spent into making the comment. Of course, there are some really annoying trolls out there, but often times, people are banned or deleted merely for disagreeing with the blogger.

    Ideally, no comments would ever be deleted, but merely routed to their proper place. Excellent comments made at the bottom because the user came in late, would be routed to the top so that people could actually read them.

    Perhaps the whole comments structure needs to be re-thought.

    I envision a software algorithm that links comments to various parts of a post, and then links the comments together as they relate to each other.

    It would also push the less relevant or inane comments away.

    But I suppose we all do the best we can with the tools that we have to work with.

  7. Why would I comment on Boing Boing? They treat me like a criminal anyway! I used to think Boing Boing was interesting but now I’m not so sure. I got “disemvoweled” just for posting links to some relevant blog posts of mine. I tried to communicate and got nothing but silence. Have they ever thought of assuming commenters are writing in good faith and email them to clear up a possible misunderstanding? Instead, they left a caustic comment following mine with no clear way on how to “comply” with their blog commenting philosophy, started to disemvowel my comments, said that I should contact Teresa without telling me how I was supposed to do that, etc. Also, email would be better too as I’m sure not everyone returns compulsively to read all the subsequent comments to a post they commented on. It all seems a bit too arrogant and callous to me.

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