July 12, 2008

Boing Boing Silently Ununpublishes A Few Violet Blue Posts

[Original research! Not an echo! News!]

In a long MetaFilter discussion about the incident, user "xchmp" noticed that a few of the Violet Blue related posts which were deleted, ahem, "unpublished" from Boing Boing were now back on the website (let us call this "ununpublished").

After investigating, I've found it's true, they were indeed silently ununpublished. Check this out (do it now, since the cache will change over time).

In the following page, compare the Google cached version ("Jul 6, 2008 19:11:10 GMT") with the current version. Look at the lower left-hand "Older" link on the two pages. The current version links to the "ununpublished" post mentioning Violet Blue, the version of July 6 cache links to the previous post. The cached version links to a different, previous post, since the Violet Blue related post was not present at the time the cached file was generated (note that could be sometime earlier than the cache date).

Another example:

Compare the Google cached version ("Jul 9, 2008 15:10:58 GMT") with the current version, again at the lower left-hand "Older" link. Same effect.

You can even see Google picking up the posts now. For example right now for a Google search on [site:boingboing.net "MondoGlobo podcasts"] I get just two hits. Neither is the post, both are other items on boingboing.net (this will change in a few days, so look now - that's how you can tell the posts are new).

Moreover the *cached* copy ( Jul 3, 2008 18:25:01 GMT) of http://www.boingboing.net/2006/10/15-week/ doesn't have the post, even though the string is showing up in the snippet (it's known that the snippets and index update faster than the cached files)

These posts, all by David Pescovitz, seem to have been rewonderfuled:

http://www.boingboing.net/2005/05/17/bdsm-dolls.html http://www.boingboing.net/2005/05/27/transparent-tape-scu.html http://www.boingboing.net/2005/12/21/violet-blues-top-ten.html http://www.boingboing.net/2006/10/19/mondoglobo-podcasts-.html

[ Source lists: http://files.bangshang.com/unpublished.php ("cillit bang") http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pzVyO44trg7ys2C31Bt3pCw&hl=en (Violet Blue) ]

[Note: This post may change to elaborate or add additional material]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in bogosphere | on July 12, 2008 10:09 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I don't think BB realise that the issue isn't their editorial policy. They can do what they like there - though unfair discrimination would still be reprehensible (if ever anyone found out about it).

The reason what they've done is despicable is because they've infringed the public's moral right to integrity of published works of art. BB can modify their published pages sure, but they have to make such modifications clear rather than misrepresent history, or now, to compound their first falsehood with another by attempting to pretend it never occurred.

BB made a statement: "X commented thus, Y commented thus, Z commented thus, etc."

It then evidently falsified this by modifying their statement as "X commented thus, Z commented thus, etc."

When people said "You removed Y from your statement without making it clear, precisely to mislead people into believing it had never occurred, you lying blighters".

This was then reverted back to: "X commented thus, Y commented thus, Z commented thus, etc."

The primary insult was not the slight caused to Y for being removed, but to the public for committing a falsehood - surreptitiously and significantly modifying a published work (to misrepresent it as the original).

Whilst reverting the page may slightly ameliorate the slight to Y (without entirely remedying it), this doesn't undo the falsehood, but doubles it.

Bye bye Boing Boing.

Why doesn't WikiPedia get into such hot water, given their pages change all the time? Because they have a historical record that makes changes clear. Pages are explicitly changeable. All BB would need is a footnote or shadow page that said something like "Y's comments removed due to being subsequently recognised as spam", or "Y's comments removed due to being found to create a trademark liability - available via the Archive".

Anyone can change their web pages, but no-one can change their public statements once they've made them, well, not without serious damage to their reputation.

You can say you like the colour blue today and change your mind tomorrow and then say you prefer violet, but you can't then deny you ever said you liked the colour blue.

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at July 13, 2008 08:19 AM

boing-boing -
censoring ourselves for integrity.

No wait, let's unpublish that.

boing-boing -
openly unpublishing since we got caught.

Wait, wait.

boing-boing -
deletion is freedom.

Double plus good, thanks BB.

Posted by: not_scottbot at July 14, 2008 08:02 AM

Xeni phobia.

Posted by: Thomas Armagost at July 14, 2008 09:14 PM