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.