False Positives at Blogger

What’s going on with Blogger? Both Yves Smith and Brad DeLong have run into problems of late, and I have a nasty feeling that it’s an unloved orphan stepchild within Google, and that it’s likely to continue to deteriorate further and lose market share to nicer, cleaner, friendlier alternatives like WordPress and Tumblr.

At the end of April, Naked Capitalism had some nasty tech woes: Google/Blogger determined somehow that the blog was a spam blog, prevented Yves Smith from posting any new entries, and made it very difficult for her to persuade them in a timely fashion that the blog was for real. The weirdness there was twofold: on the one hand Google owns Feedburner, and the number of Feedburner subscriptions alone should have been an indication that the blog was not spam. And what’s more, Google was happy keeping the site up; it merely prevented the posting of any new entries. If the blog was spam, it’s far from clear what such actions would achieve.

Now, Brad DeLong is being prevented from even viewing Abu Muqawama, on the grounds that he "looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application". (Maybe he hadn’t had enough of his morning coffee that day, or maybe he’d had too much?)

False positives are always a problem in any attempt to fight spambots and viruses and the like, but the Blogger/Google response seems far too heavy-handed to me. It’s increasingly hard to prove you’re a human these days, but they shouldn’t make it impossible.

For what it’s worth, this is the official statement I got from a Google spokesperson when I asked them about Yves Smith’s Blogger troubles:

We think blog spam is a serious problem and we have spam detection software to try to eliminate it. We’re aware that false-positive matches sometimes happen, and when they do, we have a process in place so that we can quickly review a blog that has been marked as spam. If we determine that the blog is not spam, we work to quickly restore the blog. We’re always innovating to improve our products and services and are working on making this process even better in the future.

As for FeedBurner, we have a lot of ideas for how to incorporate other content authority signals into blog spam detection, but we don’t have anything specific to announce at this time.

I guess it’s inevitable that when a company grows to be as big as Google now is, it will revert to this kind of overlawyered corporate-speak. Is that evil? Maybe not, but it’s a step in the wrong direction.

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