June 29, 2013

Tracking Google's New "Short Fuse" Blogger Shutdown Policy

Yesterday, in New Info About Google's Blogger "Adult Sites" Deletion Notification, I attempted to provide some clarity to concerns about Google's sudden announcement that adult-content Blogger sites containing ads or other monetization links to commercial porn sites were subject to shutdown starting only a few days later, and I mentioned that apparently all (not just adult-oriented) Blogger sites could be affected.

I noted at the time (based on what I've been told by Google) that the short notice will likely (somehow) be taken into consideration, but there is no formal grace period, and no promises about what will actually happen after the deadline hits this Monday. Nor is there any explanation for why this incredibly short notice is in effect, given the logistical issues involved for users forced to alter their sites in such a rush.

It's the point about all Blogger sites being affected -- not just the adult sites -- that appears to have triggered more panic among some Blogger users, judging from my inbox this morning. So below are a few suggestions and a request.

I don't really think the panic is necessarily justified, but frankly there are more questions than answers about this situation overall.

In a nutshell, Blogger users are asking me if their non-adult sites are vulnerable to shutdown under this new rule if any of their ads and/or affiliate links (perhaps served by ad networks that they don't directly control) happen to ever display porn-related monetization materials? And does this apply only to current content, or also to their older pages and accessible archive materials, which in some cases reach back for many years. Users are asking me how they're expected to "cleanse" all of those pages and links in a practical manner, especially over the course of just a few days.

And they're very concerned that their blogging work of long duration may be suddenly wiped out by this new Google initiative, with limited avenues for appeal.

These are all good questions. I wish I had good answers. But as I mentioned yesterday, Google is being uncharacteristically opaque about what is driving this sudden change and how it will be implemented.

When real data is lacking, one is forced to rely more on speculation, and that's the realm we move into right now.

My assumption is that since the initial notice about the Blogger content policy change was sent to adult content Blogger sites, not all Blogger sites, we can probably assume that the self-identified adult Blogger sites will be the focus of Google's initial enforcement efforts.

So if you run a non-adult Blogger site, I'd recommend that you start cleansing your ads and affiliate links as soon as possible, but don't go crazy trying to get it done at warp speed.

If you run an adult content Blogger site, I suspect you're much more likely to be in the bullseye rapidly, so I'd suggest you start cleaning up your ads and links (or get to your webmaster in a hurry if you don't maintain the site yourself) and meet the new guidelines as quickly as practicable.

I'm also assuming, based on the rather cloudy info I have from Google about this, that nothing is likely (emphasis on the word "likely" since we don't really know) to happen immediately on Monday or the next few days at least. Again, this must be considered speculation only.

Complicating the situation (beyond those questions related to the effective timing of enforcement) are unanswered questions like whether major or minor "offenders" will be the focus of initial enforcement efforts, whether any site-specific warning notices will be sent out by Google prior to actual specific shutdowns, what appeal procedures might be in place, and whether or not Blogger data will still be available for owner download via Google Takeout after a site is terminated under this new policy (Blogger data is normally available through Takeout).

I don't really have more to add right now, other than a request.

If you receive a notice from Google that your Blogger site is being shutdown under this policy, and/or if it actually is shutdown -- whether it was an adult site or especially if it was not an adult site -- please let me know with as much detail as you're comfortable sharing with me, via lauren@vortex.com.

I'd like to track the deployment and evolution of this policy and situation. Hopefully together we can better understand what is actually happening, and why.

Thanks very much.


UPDATE (10:51 AM): Addendum re Google Blogger Shutdown Issues / Speculation re COPPA

In reference to the Blogger shutdown warnings discussed above, it has been suggested (and it occurred to me as well) that the timing of this sudden policy change by Google somehow relates to the new COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) regulations coming into force on 1 July (Monday).


Maybe. COPPA's primary focus in on collection of personal information (broadly defined, even including cookies, IP addresses, and processor or device serial numbers) from "child-directed" websites (not primarily sites that are not oriented toward children). And while the new COPPA regs do expand site owner responsibility to include any associated ad network practices, there is no direct connection between all this and adult advertising/adult affiliate links per se -- that I'm aware of anyway.

So without an *extremely* broad reading of the regs that seems difficult to justify, there doesn't seem to be an *obvious* nexus between the COPPA changes and Google's actions.

But even if there were (or is), the COPPA changes have been coming down the pipeline for quite some time. The sudden announcement of a policy change just four days ahead under such circumstances would seem nonsensical, unless somebody seriously dropped the ball somewhere, or a last minute interpretation caused a panicky decision to change the formal policies at the last minute.

Overall, this isn't making a lot of sense. There's likely a missing factor, and whether it's COPPA or something else just isn't clear.

Unfortunately, Blogger users affected by this sudden Google policy change are in the same boat pretty much either way.


Posted by Lauren at June 29, 2013 08:47 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein