Are Digg, Google, Facebook and Reddit Censoring Sites Without Notice or Recourse?

censorship-InternetOn June 11th something happened across the internet that has reverberated through many online services that we take for granted. Starting with Facebook there was an unexplained (and Facebook still refuses to comment) run of legitimate sites suddenly being marked as spam, then just as suddenly being “fixed”. We saw this with our links where after posting an article on Microsoft we lost all links between June 11th and May 28th. When we tried to repost them we were told that the links were blocked because they were “spammy”. Our report of this issue resulted in well over 100 others stating the same thing was happening to them.

On the same Day News Aggregation site Digg went offline for over 4 hours. There were no stories available and even logging in presented you with an error. This affected the service globally, but did not seem to be reported by any news sites beyond our single article on the issue. Even Digg would not comment on the issue other than to say it was back online. The same day (again June 11th) multiple sites started reporting that they had been removed from the Google News Database without notice or explanation. Reddit also has had some issues with categorizing legitimate sites as spam, again without notice (although we are not sure if this also started on the 11th of June).

It seems that all of these groups are embarking on a censorship campaign that is being kept for not only the public but also from the owners of the sites. In the case of Google and Facebook there was no notice at all. The sites affected simply had their links disappear from Facebook and Google. Attempts to contact both companies for help have either been ignored (in the case of Facebook) or only merited a simple “we are looking into it” response in the case of Google.

The Reddit issue seems even more concerning as they are blocking what many would call “high-quality” content without any notice. Many Reddit users have complained about the domain wide bans and it is seen as an abrupt change in the open and free nature that Reddit has always claimed to have. Redidit claims that the sites were banned due to spamming links and cheating the system, but the problem is that it is still censorship of a type unprecedented on Reddit. The whole idea of Reddit is a user moderated community. If people do not like something they down vote it with enthusiasm. But it is not blocked outright.

We are not sure what is going on with these news aggregation sties, but there is something and you can bet it is no coincidence that it all happened around the 11th of June. We have reached out to all of the listed sites asking for additional information and will let you know what we find. For now we are very concerned that sites are being blocked without notification or recourse as that is simply the worst kind of censorship you can have.

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