This week, Six Apart attempted to block what they genuinely believed were inappropriate blogs and it backfired. Given the proliferation of blogs, it’s time to examine your own approaches to deleting user-generated content from your sites.
In the case of Six Apart, they took action on their own Live Journal site. After discovering what they believed was sex-themed content, entire communities “took the hit” and everyone was blocked. Then Six Apart went back and unblocked individuals who were not violating their terms and conditions. (See CNET coverage here and here. )
Before blogs, the original free web-hosted services also wanted to prevent dirty or potentially illegal materials from appearing. When I was general manager at Freeservers.com, we literally had someone assigned to the task full-time. We monitored spikes in traffic and blocked the offending web site. Alternatively if someone registered a complaint, regardless of our opinion or judgment, we also blocked sites that offended him/her. We thought that worked pretty well.
Currently, it is possible to do more with internal searching mechanisms. Blog suppliers could search for inappropriate terms and content within blogs. They might block particular blogs, bloggers or perhaps postings. All these actions are acceptable, as anyone who creates a blog is subject to the terms and conditions of the supplier.
If you’re a publisher, then take a look at how you’re handling bloggers who have signed up and are posting on your domain. Check your Terms of Service, and either adjust them or otherwise create policies that are appropriate for your site. Beyond the policies, decide how you want to handle bloggers and posters in general. How do you want to monitor them? How to you want to respond to complaints? Are you comfortable with an “anything goes” approach?
In the user generated era, you should encourage free speech and open dialog. It’s just 99.9% rather than 100% free-for-all.