July 23, 2014

Apparently, WordPress has become the blog police?

One of the core questions that people ask me when they decide to start using a weblog as the foundation of their business marketing and branding efforts is: where should I host my blog? My usual answer is that it doesn’t really matter and that you can get started a lot faster by using a hosted service like WordPress or Typepad, but I’m going to have to change that now.

Why? Because the team at WordPress.com has come up with new regulations about what is and isn’t acceptable on blog postings, and if you cross the line, they’ll not only shut your site down with less than twelve hours warning, but they’ll also ban you from ever signing up again.

It starts with banning blog entries that have (sponsored) links from PayPerPost, but that’s a sticky slope and it’s easy to have that move into other prohibited areas, including perhaps exactly what your business blog is about. Then what?

So, come clean, are you hosted on WordPress.com? And if so, what’s your opinion on this clarification of their Terms of Service and its implementation within the community?


Note: this is an excerpt of a longer article I’ve written on this subject: Is WordPress now the Blog Police.

11 comments for Apparently, WordPress has become the blog police? »

  1. Sorry Dave, I have to call foul, and respond to your unfair label of WordPress.com as blogging police. As I stated in my blog post, WordPress.com may run their company in the manner they see fit no matter how nonsensical you feel them to be. Like Google and other companies that spell out their terms of service, we must agree and adhere to their policies or use someone else. Does this make them blogosphere police? I’m not inclined to go that far.

    Oh yeah, are we still having coffee next week?

    Comment by Jim Turner — November 11, 2006 @ 3:59 pm


  2. Thanks for keeping up on what’s going on “out there”. I am currently with TypePad. One of my hestitations with these pre-packaged providers is the amount of control they ultimately have. I am sure that there is plenty of wiggle room for them to basically do what they want. Their legal team will have provided them with this power to make changes if they see they are losing revenue due to new technologies or what have you. Aside from hosting the site on a personally owned server, these issues will continue to influence our ability to manage our own businesses.

    Comment by ~rick — November 11, 2006 @ 4:04 pm


  3. You’re creating a false dichotomy, Jim. I say in my own piece that WordPress is free to create whatever weird and unfair terms of service they like; it’s their business for them to run as they see fit. However, they are making relatively arbitrary decisions about what is and isn’t acceptable content and that is affecting business bloggers who might be experimenting with different ways to monetize their blogging efforts, and that causes me to no longer recommend them as a viable platform for business blogging.

    Comment by Dave Taylor — November 11, 2006 @ 4:10 pm


  4. Just because WordPress.com hasn’t put an express provision in their TOS for PayPerPost.com is not an arbitrary act or decision. Their decision right or wrong has no affect on any of the businesses wanting to use other “free hosting” services. Would it make it an easier pill for you to swallow if they specifically stated in their TOS that “we don’t like PayPerPost.com?” Does this make them the Blogosphere police? This is your mistake in my opinion. I don’t feel served or protected by WordPress.com, unless your intention is to rename them the “splog police”. I fail to see the dichotomy, false or otherwise. The label “Blog Police” as if they are forcing their will on the public in some marshall law type action is misplaced.

    Comment by Jim Turner — November 11, 2006 @ 6:46 pm


  5. Dave –

    I’m with you. If there is any kind of censorship going on, beyond that which is dictated by our existing laws, I would not recommend anyone use the “free” service.

    You have to control your own words in blogisphere. I wouldn’t recommend anyone subject themselves unnecessarily to someone else’s domain and impression of right and wrong.

    Jim – I have no idea if that makes them the Police or the KGB – but, I do know this is not freedom and whether or not “they have the right” to do so could easily be challenged using the First Amendment to the US Constitution (depending on the host nation) and decided by the court.

    It sounds like Dave’s main issue was whether or not he would continue to recommend this service to a client. Given this change in policy, I would not recommend that service for a client, either.

    Dave – good heads up and this is sad to hear. Slippery slope, indeed. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Amy Stephen — November 12, 2006 @ 12:26 am


  6. WordPress.com has not allowed ads or affilate links from day one. Paid posts are just the latest form of blog monetization and they fall under that same rule. The rule was initially set up to discourage sploggers. It has worked well for that purpose. Tens of thousands of spam blogs have been shut down over the months on WordPress.com, and we will continue to do so. At the same time, we’ve been asking our users if and when they would like to make money from their blogs. From their feedback we are devising ways to enable monetization while continuing to keep spam blogs away (and continuing to offer a great service to the many bloggers who are not interested in having ads and such on their blogs). It’s an interesting challenge and I’d lvoe to hear people’s ideas for how to solve it.

    Comment by Toni Schneider — November 12, 2006 @ 6:25 pm


  7. My blog is hosted by WordPress and the regulations have not effected me. Because WordPress is primarily targeting businesses, these regulations are completely within the boundries of “policing” they are expected to follow. I find your topics really interesting for a small business owner that is getting into blogging myself ;)
    Thanks
    Ayat
    PS: Are you going to “police” comments, or can people say whatever they like on your blog?

    Comment by Ayat — November 13, 2006 @ 9:37 am


  8. As PPP opponent, I am still with you on this. So I don’t want to sell a positive PR piece on my blog, I’d bristle if someone told me I couldn’t.

    Yes, it’s a free service, but they give you the impression that you are free to write what you will. Will they also one day say I can’t write about theology (what my wordpress.com covers) or say anything that is unpopular?

    I wish they didn’t police my blog’s sidebars already, it’s disturbing that now I have to wonder about my content too.

    Comment by Robyn Tippins — November 13, 2006 @ 12:05 pm


  9. It’s not about censorship. It’s about risk management. Of course they can make any rules or decisions they like. It’s a free service, right? So how much leverage do users think they have? Typepad and my favourite hosted service BlogHarbor, by contrast, are in a commercial relationship and my guess is they will be less inclined to be arbitrary in exercising their undoubted prerogatives as service owners and providers. And a hosted service is a better choice, in my view, for the non-techie small biz owner for whom the wordpress.org setup is not attractive. I will not be recommending wordpress.com for business users either, but then I have been recommending against it all along because you can’t have your own domain so the blog is not portable. To adapt the Dave mantra about how necessary it is in business to be findable online, I say that in this day and age your blog has to be portable, i.e. you must be able to switch hosting as often and as quickly as you like, keeping the same domain. So wordpress.com is still amateursville for me, just moreso.

    Comment by Des Walsh — November 16, 2006 @ 7:23 am


  10. “It’s a free service, right? So how much leverage do users think they have?” Des – this seems to be suggesting it should be obvious to people that if they get a product for free, they are relinquishing their rights to do and say certain things.

    Will that stand in court? Well, that will depend on the skill of the attorneys on both sides and the judge listening. Will it ever be challenged? Absolutely, you can bank on it.

    Let’s carry this “free service” defense a little further. What if I only pay $1 per year for hosting? Obviously, one dollar is not going to cover the cost of doing business, but, it is still “consideration” in a contract sense. If it is all about profit, how much of my freedom of speech am I selling off, then? Let’s up my charge to $10 per year. Now, how much of my constitutional rights are still available to me? Let’s say I am willing to pay $12,000 per year. Now, am I free? At what point have I paid enough money to have what freedoms I thought I had at birth?

    Honestly, let’s face it. All of this is new and emerging and policies like this will be questioned in court and shaped by the judicial system. I expect that the courts will contradict one another until we settle on “what is right.” But, I’ll tell you this, last time I checked, my first amendment rights were not trumped by business decisions.

    Is there a “contract” if no money is exchanged? Sure – lots of contracts are formed without the exchange of cash. Ok, but some consideration has to be provided on both ends to be a real contract. So, the question is, what does wordpress.com get in exchange for a huge collection of people willing to use their free service? Market dominance provides leverage in the Internet. That is the exchange. There is an obvious desire on wordpress.com’s part to get us to “buy in” to this “free” service. That’s why they offer it.

    Today, blogging is your voice. As a blogger, I believe there is nothing more important than ensuring your voice is liberated. Robyn – I think you are right to be concerned about your words. I think we all need to do everything we can to make certain people remember that, in the US, our rights apply in the blogisphere just like these rights apply in the atmosphere. It is no different here and there is a real danger that it will be treated differently given the fact that there is “no cost.”

    Toni – It is awesome you posted here. I blog with WordPress software and I love it! It is a COOL TOOL! I understand the right of WordPress.com to make business decisions. I’ll even admit I have not one clue as to the complexity of your situation. I am guessing the issues you face everyday with this amazing and free service are mind blowing.

    But, for a growing number of us, we are more and more sensitive to rules that shape or restrict our voice. And, while WP is absolutely free to implement any policies desired, we are free, of course, to choose not to participate and to choose not to recommend the service. I think you are a sincere person and I am certain these freedoms matter to those of you making these policies, and I am confident you are listening and considering and that is appreciated.

    +++

    Good comments everyone and Dave, thanks for allowing me to share my voice on your blog. Your blog is your voice. It is your private home that you can allow people to enter or not enter. That is far different than a public service and restricting my occupation of your home does not infringe upon my rights. I have no right to your home or your blog.

    +++

    Regular backups sent offsite are a blogger’s best protection against policy changes, fires, electrical outages, crackers and stupid mistakes.

    +++

    Des – domain forwarding and domain masking will take care of your concerns for portability.

    Comment by Amy Stephen — November 17, 2006 @ 11:26 am


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