DC's
July 18, 2016 9:23 AM   Subscribe

On June 27 Google disabled Dennis Cooper's long-running blog and the associated Gmail account. The Blogger site, which Cooper has been frequently updating since 2002, was a gathering space for fans of experimental literature.

Cooper was using a the blog to compose his second novel of animated GIFs (previous FPP about his first) and had no backup. PEN America is concerned, while others have used the incident as a demonstration of the dangers of trusting publishing platforms.

Cooper is posting updates about his effort to get access to the blog's contents on Facebook.

DC's blog previously.
posted by edeezy (110 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
PSA: Back up your data kids. Locally and at another physically separate location either "in the cloud", at a friends or even at your beach house (in a waterproof container as global warming makes that spot unreliable).
posted by sammyo at 9:31 AM on July 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


I was going to ask how Google determined he violated their TOS, but then I realized I would surprised if they ever gave him an answer.
posted by Kitteh at 9:34 AM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was not really aware of his blog stuff or any of his other work but God Jr. is a mighty nifty book.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:36 AM on July 18, 2016


FUCK THE CLOUD, an essay on just this sort of danger by Jason Scott.
posted by indubitable at 9:37 AM on July 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


3-2-1

at least three backups
at least two different backup methods
at least one backup held offsite
posted by djeo at 9:38 AM on July 18, 2016 [35 favorites]


Google is so hostile to users it's like they don't want them at all.
posted by bleep at 9:43 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


A Reddit user suggests that it could have been deleted for being child porn, based on having read Cooper's other books. Having not read any of his work, this makes all the references to "mature" content or it being "the kind of subject matter that one would expect [from Dennis]" sound very coquettish. It would make discussion of this far more concrete if he was willing to say "I've been writing about raping dead children on my blog for years so why would they have just now decided it was unacceptable?".
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:44 AM on July 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yep, djeo is spot on. We always said if your data is important you will have backup and if it is damned important you will have three.

That doesn't really excuse what Google has done here... you know "cloud" and all that
posted by twidget at 9:46 AM on July 18, 2016


at least one backup held offsite

This would seem to suggest "at least one backup held onsite" should be added to the list.
posted by biogeo at 9:46 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Is this the same Dennis Cooper who wrote a book with a chapter about manual disembowelment?

Yes. Yes, it is.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:49 AM on July 18, 2016


Why the heck was he not publishing to his own site?
posted by davidmsc at 9:50 AM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh, and from the essay I linked, because that's how this discussion seems to be evolving:
This is about your data. This is about your work. This is about you using your time so that you make things and work on things and you trust a location to do “the rest” and guess what, here is what we have learned:
  • If you lose your shit, the technogeeks will not help you. They will giggle at you and make fun of your not understanding the fundamental principles and engineering of client-server models. This is kind of like firemen sitting around giggling at you because you weren’t aware of the inherent lightning-strike danger of improperly bonded CSST.
posted by indubitable at 9:51 AM on July 18, 2016 [28 favorites]


Part of the context here is Cooper is apparently known for sexually explicit works, some of which touch on more outré subjects. I've only read Frisk, which I barely recall but from my notes I apparently found unpleasant. From what I've read secondhand he's somewhere on the line between art and pornography and close to hot button subjects like child sex and necrophilia.

Google has historically been very permissive and free-speech with Blogger policy. But last year they changed their adult content policy, explicitly forbidding "sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video". My understanding of the Cooper situation is it's text that's at question, not imagery, so I don't know if that change is related.

You definitely want your own copy of stuff, don't trust companies to host data for you. Google makes downloading your data easier than most companies, thanks to the company's own Data Liberation Front. Exporting from Blogger is supported. (Also a quick look suggests Cooper's blog is on the Wayback Machine, which is not a convenient means of recovering data but is at least possible.)
posted by Nelson at 9:52 AM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Thinking about it a bit...seems to me the lesson I take away from this is that at a very minimum cloud service ToC's are important to read if I'm going to create works pushing on bounds exceeding "acceptable for polite company".

I don't agree with Google's actions at all BTW.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:55 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I predict this to be net-positive for Cooper, who is getting a lot of attention from this well beyond his usual circles, which were already fairly broad. I would bet money Google backtracks on this and DC gets his data back, and then the question will be whether he sticks with Google or moves elsewhere.
posted by chavenet at 9:55 AM on July 18, 2016


And yeah, if this guy was posting child pornography specifically, the whole framing of this discussion is pretty disingenuous. Of course Google has the right (even responsibility) to censor that kind of material. It still serves as a good reminder that you don't really own your data that you store solely "in the cloud," but frankly I don't really care if this guy lost all of his work on his avant-garde necro-pedophilia novel.
posted by biogeo at 9:57 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Just to clarify the important element of 'child porn,' the above linked comment states:

The last book of his I picked up was Try, which has a subplot involving a man who keeps the corpse of a fourteen year old boy in his home to use as a sex toy. There are graphic descriptions of sex with children and of, ugh, why necrophilia feels so good when the body is in a specific state of decomposition.

So with that kind of content, combined with backing up nothing, violating Terms of Service when he could easily have just had his own site... why am I supposed to feel sympathetic again?
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 9:57 AM on July 18, 2016 [21 favorites]


This is the same Google that made an algorithm change which almost took metafilter out of business over a two year period.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:58 AM on July 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


Locally and at another physically separate location either "in the cloud", at a friends or even at your beach house (in a waterproof container as global warming makes that spot unreliable).

... or in a bathroom closet.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2016


But last year they changed their adult content policy, explicitly forbidding "sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video".

As the link says, 'unless they are deemed to hold "substantial public benefit."' IIRC Cooper's blog was disabled after that ToS change, but was reenabled on appeal as having real artistic merit.

And unless someone has some example I'm pretty sure he wasn't posting child porn. I mostly followed the blog for the book recommendations and skimmed over the posts of sexual content but I don't remember there being anything objectionable in that way.
posted by edeezy at 10:00 AM on July 18, 2016


the same Google that made an algorithm change which almost took metafilter out of business

OTOH, it's also the same Google that created an ad ecosystem that funded Metafilter remarkably richly for many years. The problem in both cases is Google is a private company with little accountability or desire to explain itself. They are inscrutable, which makes anyone who feels wronged by the company justifiably upset.

I'm in the weird position of having worked at Google long ago, so they don't feel as inscrutable to me. I still have some understanding of how some decisions get made. But the company has changed an awful lot since I left. I still feel some sense of.. empathy? That's probably personally unhealthy.

Google has always been arrogantly terrible at explaining their decisions. It's not an accident.
posted by Nelson at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


If you lose your shit, the technogeeks will not help you.

How...are the "technogeeks" supposed to help you, once your shit is already gone? Does he think they can get results by writing strongly worded letters, like your lawyer does if you had a problem getting your security deposit back? Do people think that we can, at will, descend a fire pole into our parents' basement and scroll through some green Matrix-text and that will "undelete your Facebook" or whatever other shit you have lost?
posted by thelonius at 10:07 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


So with that kind of content, combined with backing up nothing, violating Terms of Service when he could easily have just had his own site... why am I supposed to feel sympathetic again?

Because the content (if text alone) is disgusting, but not illegal, and, unlike much of the disgusting, vicious content the ISPs are always claiming they can't do anything about, isn't actually (as far as I know) directly aimed at hurting someone? I mean, service providers can establish whatever rules for content they prefer, but as a general rule we should find those kind of restrictions on content a net negative for society.
posted by praemunire at 10:08 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think what he needs are "lawyergeeks" not technogeeks.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:10 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yesterday afternoon Google disabled my blog and took it offline. They did the same with my email account. Other than being shown a general 'violation of our terms of service' statement, I have been given no explanation for this, and I have not received any response to my questions and complaints thus far.

What I love about trying to contact Google for technical assistance with their products is that they put thousands upon thousands of developer hours into a setup that puts you in contact with other users who are also having problems, on some slim hope or probability that you'll both be able to solve each other's technical issues. It's the end-stage of software engineering: merging tech support with Chat Roulette.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:16 AM on July 18, 2016 [37 favorites]


Unfortunately, lawyergeeks tend not to know how to retrieve deleted data while technogeeks do.

That's the insufferable aspect of the technogeeks. Their arcane rules are why it got deleted, and they totally have the ability to restore it, but instead they're just snickering at you.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:17 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's the end-stage of software engineering: merging tech support with Chat Roulette.

That certainly describes my experience with a Nexus 4 whose cellular radio randomly shitted out. Every person with a "similar problem" lived in fucking Norway and were getting told it was because they ordered a phone built for US networks to run in a foreign country, and that no one could help them.

And then me, the one person in the fucking US with the problem.

This was the end of my love affair with Google.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:19 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


That's the insufferable aspect of the technogeeks. Their arcane rules are why it got deleted

I am one of those technogeeks, we are almost never the ones writing those arcane rules, we merely impliment them, wanna guess who writes them?
posted by Cosine at 10:36 AM on July 18, 2016 [19 favorites]


IIRC Try is a terribly sad story about abuse and the desire for human connection even in awful circumstances, with a terribly sympathetic protagonist, and dismissing it as child porn is facile.
posted by Lyme Drop at 11:00 AM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


That's the insufferable aspect of the technogeeks. Their arcane rules are why it got deleted

I am a lead engineer on a security team and sit on several steering committees where I review everything the legal department writes in order to figure out how that turns into a technical implementation. Yeah I know about those silly rules, but no I will not just go over to the database guy and ask him to restore your website, violating about 100 work policies and getting myself fired in the process.

The tech staff and engineers have as much control over the data policies as grocery store cashiers have over the money in their till, y'all realize that right?
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:01 AM on July 18, 2016 [22 favorites]


Annika: Thanks boss!
posted by Cosine at 11:05 AM on July 18, 2016


Annika Cicada, the thing is, Google has done two things here:
  1. "We are going to use your works to make us money"
  2. "We are taking your works away"
And then people (technical people, because they're the ones who know about this) come in here talking about backup strategies and basically blaming this guy for what happened to him while ignoring the essential wrongness of maybe (1) and definitely (2).
posted by indubitable at 11:08 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am one of those technogeeks, we are almost never the ones writing those arcane rules, we merely impliment them, wanna guess who writes them?

I'm also a technogeek, and while we're hardly a monolith or solely to blame, I don't think we can entirely escape responsibility. We're automators and systematizers, we absolutely contribute to the cultivation of a culture in which it's often considered good to factor human attention, labor, and judgment out of play because of the efficiencies. Our motivations might be because it's cool or allows us to pay attention to cooler things, and one can distinguish that motivation from those of various suits who primarily see the profit and control side of the efficiencies, but it still makes us part of a larger system that doesn't present a human face or exhibit great judgment when it comes time to make a decision to delete someone's body of work.

And while this *absolutely* serves as a cautionary tale about The Cloud... the problem is that it's the opposite of the story the industry constantly sells users about The Cloud, which is You Don't Have to Worry About It. All those things technogeeks have been telling you that you need to learn to do? Setting up your own server? Testing on your machine? Backing up? Managing your mail? You don't! It will be done for you as a service. Maybe even for free for motives that aren't entirely transparent but that's also something you don't have to worry about!

And I get seduced by it too, not sure what hope less sophisticated users have of seeing the limits of that promise. Particularly if Google keeps a lid on the number of live bobcats it ships users periodically. When you capture enough mindshare, even notable collateral damage at the edges doesn't mean much.
posted by wildblueyonder at 11:11 AM on July 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


Because the content (if text alone) is disgusting, but not illegal

In some jurisdictions, maybe. It is where I live.
And even still, if you put your data on Google's servers they can remove it if they think it's disgusting. There are no "free speech" responsibilities for non-government entities.
posted by rocket88 at 11:15 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


come in here talking about backup strategies and basically blaming this guy for what happened to him

Okay NOW I feel you. Apologies for missing that.

HEY TECH FOLX:

Can I ask that we all stop with the "you should have made a backup"? It's bad optics.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


There's definitely something victim-blamey to the whole "he should have backed up his shit" line of commenting (but, of course, you should all back up any shit that you are currently hosting in the cloud*).

That being said, I don't think that it's fair to say that Google has done both of these things:

"We are going to use your works to make us money"
"We are taking your works away"


(1) They do do, and make no secret of the fact that they do and in exchange offer their hosting services for free (as in beer). I really can't see an argument as to why this is somehow "wrong."

(2) They haven't done -- they didn't "take these works away," they deleted their copy of them. The works still exist everywhere that copies exist (e.g. the Internet Archive, maybe the author's computer somewhere, maybe in a torrent somewhere, etc).

If you want to talk about Google's decision about whether or not to continue to host these works was right or wrong, that's a completely different conversation than "Google destroyed my life's work."

*here's the secret: there is no cloud -- it's just someone else's computer
posted by sparklemotion at 11:25 AM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


well, I could be wrong, but actually deleting something so that it goes away "forever bye bye" in a massively scaled and highly available cloud compute platform seems like it would take way more work than google would put into a single hosted blog?
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:29 AM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


In some jurisdictions, maybe. It is where I live.

Are you saying that you are aware of some specific content on Cooper's blog that is illegal in your jurisdiction or just that there are jurisdictions, including yours, where material that is only text, not images, can be illegal?

If you know something specific that Cooper published on his site that might be illegal, it would be very interesting to learn what that was.

There are no "free speech" responsibilities for non-government entities.

I don't think that's the case. The legal requirements for non-government entities are different, but I think non-state actors have ethical responsibilities around free speech, especially if the represent as large a part of the platform for sharing information that Google does.

I think Cooper has contributed a great deal, to literature, to art and to other writers and artists, and I'm sorry this has happened to him.
posted by layceepee at 11:32 AM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


How...are the "technogeeks" supposed to help you, once your shit is already gone?

Like Annika Cicada says it seems rather unlikely to me that they would delete anything immediately and irreversibly. Whether there's a way to get them to reinstate access is another question.

There are no "free speech" responsibilities for non-government entities.

Isn't that sort of the problem?
posted by atoxyl at 11:43 AM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


There are no "free speech" responsibilities for non-government entities.

This is true in a strictly legal sense (which, for what it's worth, is why I explicitly noted it in my comment), but I would encourage you to start asking yourself whether it might be better for the world if we conceived of entities as powerful as Google as being potentially subject to other types of constraints.
posted by praemunire at 11:56 AM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


HEY TECH FOLX:

Can I ask that we all stop with the "you should have made a backup"? It's bad optics.


Heartily seconding this.
posted by odinsdream at 12:07 PM on July 18, 2016


This is true in a strictly legal sense (which, for what it's worth, is why I explicitly noted it in my comment), but I would encourage you to start asking yourself whether it might be better for the world if we conceived of entities as powerful as Google as being potentially subject to other types of constraints.

So much energy on MeFi is spent complaining about the hateful, racist, and bigoted content that Google/FB et. al. doesn't take down, and now you are going to suggest that they will be required to do so by law?

Because if you are going to force them to host the stuff you like against their will and policies, they are also going to be forced to host you reaaaalllyy don't like.

Can I ask that we all stop with the "you should have made a backup"? It's bad optics.

Seems like the message needs to be repeated enough until it sinks in.
posted by sideshow at 12:09 PM on July 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


This is true in a strictly legal sense (which, for what it's worth, is why I explicitly noted it in my comment), but I would encourage you to start asking yourself whether it might be better for the world if we conceived of entities as powerful as Google as being potentially subject to other types of constraints.

Or just - that's why it's a problem when people are encouraged to put data in the hands of huge private entities. Because they can do whatever the hell they want with it!
posted by atoxyl at 12:11 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


So much energy on MeFi is spent complaining about the hateful, racist, and bigoted content that Google/FB et. al. doesn't take down, and now you are going to suggest that they will be required to do so by law?

I would submit that these two positions are taken by non-identical groups of commenters (though there are probably some conceivable notions of middle ground).
posted by atoxyl at 12:14 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The technogeeks aren't giggling at this. We feel like Cassandra being vindicated yet again because the last two decades are twenty years of helpful corporations saying "Don't worry your pretty little head over it, we'll take care of everything for free! Aren't we wonderful?" while the tech community keeps cautioning people (including our own insanely overenthusiastic members) that you probably shouldn't depend on something you don't control.

Yes, it's bad optics to say "I told you so", but it's churlish to act victimized by the I-told-you-sos when they use you as yet another object lesson rather than marshalling for your torches-and-pitchforks parade to Google's front door.
posted by fatbird at 12:21 PM on July 18, 2016 [21 favorites]


Because if you are going to force them to host the stuff you like against their will and policies, they are also going to be forced to host you reaaaalllyy don't like.

It is actually possible to draft policy that reflects the difference between, say, content that some may find distasteful but is clearly not intended to abuse, harass, or silence particular individuals, and content that is. It's not straightforward, but very few important policy decisions are.

I think the free-speech-online debate should have gotten past this kind of law-of-the-excluded-middle thinking by now.
posted by praemunire at 12:28 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm totally happy for the federal government to regulate "large private entities" up to their necks. I have no problem saying that when the right to do X requires either (a) lots of personal money and/or lots of technical education, or (b) going through large corporations (eg, phone service, web search, ISP, web hosting, social media communication, etc, etc), then we can regulate quite a lot of what those corporations do in the name of defending rights, including both what they should take down and what they should leave up. I have not an iota of sympathy for them. If they want out, they can shrink or leave the market.
posted by chortly at 12:31 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


"You should have had a back-up" can be read as simply an "I told you so." But it's not. This message has been repeated, ad nausea, since the dawn of home computing — to very little effect.

These days it is trivial to build a website and begin filling it with content — all of which is residing on a computer you do not own or control whatsoever. It's so easy, this fact is simple to overlook as everything works and you carry on over the years. Then, BOOM, it's gone; all of it.

I started building websites via Geocities, and always uploaded my content manually, via FTP. So I've always had a local copy of anything I've ever published online. The few times I used Word Press, I made sure to export copies of my postings regularly. These are practices that have saved my bacon on numerous occasions — because IT shit happens to you in the worst way possible at the worst time imaginable, usually.

So, I am not mocking this fellow, or anyone else who's ever been in that position. I am strongly suggesting everyone takes the back-up practices to heart. This can prevent the loss of years of painstaking work, effort and output from instantly vanishing with no recourse. No laughter here; I've had to give the bad news ("your data is irretrievable") to people, and it is miserable even just to relay the message.

Ease-of-use is a net positive, but it can likewise make it easier to forego really good practices that any content producer should follow.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:48 PM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


It is actually possible to draft policy that reflects the difference between, say, content that some may find distasteful but is clearly not intended to abuse, harass, or silence particular individuals, and content that is. It's not straightforward, but very few important policy decisions are.

It is actually not only possible but incredibly easy and common for managers to sit in a room and draft policies of all stripes. But application of any policy is subject to interpretation on the part of people who may have legal and financial responsibilities to actually make it work in the real world, such as for digital content that could be triggering or otherwise has the potential to be considered abusive, if not litigious.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:51 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Off Google and onto Facebook?! Jeez, frying pan --> fire
posted by gusandrews at 12:58 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, it's bad optics to say "I told you so"

Why?
posted by thelonius at 1:06 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Isn't calling anyone who cares to install backup software a "technogeek" also "bad optics"?
posted by thelonius at 1:10 PM on July 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Clicked the comments to see how quickly the bookburner urge manifested. Was not disappointed that all it took was an unsubstantiated (certainly not by Google) that child pron justified burning a person's entire opus. Maybe it's because it's digital work perceived as technically naive that these comments come so easy? If it were centuries-old Roman marble copies of hellenistic child rapes and such in bronze, or Goya's paintings of deity cannibalism in human forms, or something more tactile and precise, etc., maybe the response would be less pointed?

Off Google and onto Facebook is why everyone's hearing about this problem, so there's that. Outside of metafilter, in forums where people in these literary circles gather, this is a Big Deal right now.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:42 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Clicked the comments to see how quickly the bookburner urge manifested. Was not disappointed that all it took was an unsubstantiated (certainly not by Google) that child pron justified burning a person's entire opus.

Where did anyone say that?
posted by biogeo at 1:52 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


So with that kind of content, combined with backing up nothing, violating Terms of Service when he could easily have just had his own site... why am I supposed to feel sympathetic again?

Are you suggesting that you would have felt sorry with that kind of content if he hadn't violated any ToS but his site was vanished regardless, or if he had things on his own site and the server just got FUBARed and he lost it that way? Because the three things you mention seem to form rather different reasons to not be sympathetic.
posted by kenko at 1:59 PM on July 18, 2016


I don't sit around cackling or gloating about it, but I also don't think it quite rises to the level of victim blaming when this sort of thing happens. I mean, for one, it is perfectly legal. This isn't some criminal breaking a law or even a stranger being rude to you. This exact scenario is probably spelled out in some EULA he agreed to in order to use a service provided at no monetary cost to him.

I am 100% all for limiting the reach of EULAs and for otherwise limiting what companies do with your data. Back when I used to talk to people I knew about overreaching EULAs, though, people would sometimes laugh, roll their eyes, and even accuse me of being a delusional conspiracy theorist. Almost nobody actually took it seriously. Those specific people, yeah, I do occasionally remind them that I warned them about whatever it is that is currently biting them in the ass because I have directly, personally told them so a lot of times, and I'm usually helping them clean up their mistakes. I'm probably more pissed about it than they are, because yeah, it's a Cassandra thing.

The fact is that a lot of people are adopting technologies they don't understand. Almost everyone is, really, and without some very strict controls, really bad things will continue to happen to us. Our data will be lost and personal information sold to various entities, including literal criminals.

We do need consumer protections, over data retention, privacy, and a whole lot of other things. But a) we do not currently have them, and b) in order to get them, people need to actually pay attention to the issues affecting them rather than just rolling their eyes and pretending to fall asleep. It is boring and sometimes obscure, intentionally so. That's how a lot of things fly under the radar. They're boring and people don't want to hear about them. It's too much work.

I am sorry it's that way. I wish it weren't. But the fact is the way other people use technology does affect everyone, and not just the people who have to clean up after your mistakes. It affects cultural norms to the point that it's considered perfectly normal to pretty much hand over all your personal information to some often totally unknown corporation for the tiniest little convenience. To the point that people are walking around, visiting other people's homes with always-on voice recognition on their phones, and running email scrapers or even directly entering other people's personal information into random corporate websites without the consent of sometimes even knowledge of the people whose information it is.

I am sorry it's hard, and I'm sorry it's boring, but at some point, if you're going to integrate technology into the most fundamental parts of your life, you do kind of need to learn a little about what it's doing or it will come back to bite you. And probably also me.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:02 PM on July 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


at least three backups
at least two different backup methods
at least one backup held offsite


The issue here is that for almost everyone i know, and i'll admit to being guilty of this multiple times, the offsite is "the cloud".

I HAD two backups locally held. One failed despite looking correct/testing fine the one time i really needed it to restore, one had been overwritten, but you still got the offsite ~in the cloud~ right?

They locked out my account, and refuse to help me in any way because the domain the email for the login was tied to is held by a squatter now. They've straight up ignored my emails/calls/etc ever since, despite my data still being in my account.

I've since gone from "at least one offsite" to at least one offsite you control access too. If you don't own a key, or aren't the primary account holder paying money who can reset your account with more than one method(say payment details AND email/phone), then it's not really a robust backup.

I really wish i had just burned shit to DVDs and mailed it to my grandma back then, or something. Ugh. "Upload right from your system at any time!" was just too easy, lazy, and sexy.
posted by emptythought at 2:13 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


From my perspective the ramifications this has on free speech and creative works remaining available into the future are really disturbing and way more pressing and notable for discussion than the time-immemorial discussion on backups that's been happening since probably 1966.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:22 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


well, I could be wrong, but actually deleting something so that it goes away "forever bye bye" in a massively scaled and highly available cloud compute platform seems like it would take way more work than google would put into a single hosted blog?

Just to address this, without any knowledge of how Google's system is laid out (or even really, what the current situation here WRT the actually bits and bytes of Cooper's data): It is trivially easy to make something look like it has gone away "forever bye bye." So easy that it could be automated, based on, say, a ToS Violation Report, and a button click from a traumatized reviewer.

But what's not necessarily trivial is getting something back after that button has been clicked (unless the decision had been made to implement some way of "restoring" after an action like this, which I can see it being hard to make the business case for).

I betcha that if Google received, say, a valid subpoena for the data, they could produce it. Or if the deleted blog was owned by Taylor Swift or some other famous-and-generally-beloved-person, or even, say, Sundar Pichai's mom. It's just the question of whether it's worth the resources that it might cost to get it back online.

From my perspective the ramifications this has on free speech and creative works remaining available into the future are really disturbing

I really have a problem seeing the free speech ramifications here. As a private carrier, Google isn't preventing the author from hosting his work elsewhere, they just chose not to carry it themselves any longer. Free speech implications could arise if, say, Cooper couldn't find anywhere to host his work -- to the extent that if he set up his own server and DNS and related infrastructure the Internet Powers that Be chose to actively route traffic away from it. Outside of places with Great Firewalls (a la China), that's not going to happen to him.

As far as the "creative works remaining available into the future" aspect, again, the "problem" here isn't one that Google caused, but one of author choice. In the pre-internet Era, the works might have been lost because Cooper couldn't find a publisher, or the publisher printed only a small run which was stored in a warehouse that burned down. Now, especially since Cooper didn't seem to have a problem with his work being freely available, it seems like he is the one who chose to publish exclusively in a forum that doesn't promise availability of the works in perpetuity.

So yeah, in the digital era, in theory works can live on forever -- but the works need to be important enough to the author to actually keep them alive. On the surface (and I say this as a reasonably techie person who has some things well backed up and other things really not) it's easy to see how it doesn't seem like Cooper's works were important enough to him, the author, to protect until he lost his only copy. Which is why you get the "if you liked it you then you shoulda put a ring on made a backup of it" comments.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:41 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


I just had two backup drives fail last week. I saved some but nearly not all of what was stored. Thousands of music files kaput. And no, i couldn't afford a third drive in a different location. What's cheap storage for some is a steep expense for others. Not in a good mood, don't want to hear it.
posted by Ber at 2:59 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


As a private carrier, Google isn't preventing the author from hosting his work elsewhere, they just chose not to carry it themselves any longer.

If this is just a decision they made why is the procedure to disable without warning? Why can't an email be sent to anyone whose blog Google chooses to disable saying "We're going to disable your blog in x days/weeks. It's been made private for now, here's a link to tools that can export your data." Instead 15 years of work and the community formed around it are just gone because an automated process or a human decision (we'll probably never know). As you say it's probable they could produce the data if forced, and Cooper has said he will pursue legal remedies to regain access to his work, but it would save a whole lot of time and money on both sides to just give him a copy of the blog.

This of course doesn't mention that his Gmail account was also disabled. He had pending offers for paying work organized through email, so he's not only lost art and correspondence but has probably been financially harmed as well.
posted by edeezy at 3:02 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I really have a problem seeing the free speech ramifications here. As a private carrier, Google isn't preventing the author from hosting his work elsewhere, they just chose not to carry it themselves any longer.

When books are burned, the bookburners aren't preventing the author from having his work published. But they are making it harder for readers to have access to the books.

I think free speech is important to listeners as well as speakers. In many cases, freedom on speech may be more important to the listeners.

It's not just Dennis Cooper who's been injured by what Google has done. The people who visited his blog--more than one has posted in this thread--have lost something as well.

How many novels composed of animated GIFs have been created? You may not be interested in that kind of literary experiment, but if you are, having Cooper's work erased means something to you.

I think there are valid free speech issues here.
posted by layceepee at 3:06 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


the ramifications this has on free speech and creative works remaining available into the future are really disturbing

That's a really good plug for archive.org. Specifically the Wayback Machine, which is making frequent backups of the Web to the best of their ability. They are the de facto archivists for the Internet. As I noted above, some part (and maybe all?) of Cooper's blog is there. There are tools and processes for making a copy of the site from the Wayback copy.

I think everyone has responsibility for their own backups. Google does an uncommonly good job in making it easy for people to make those backups. But I also think Google should provide him with an archival copy even if they choose to no longer host his data. Unless the data itself is illegal (say, child porn), but if it's just a TOS violation they should still make a download available as a courtesy.
posted by Nelson at 3:22 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think this does point to some interesting questions about free speech on an Internet increasingly dominated by centralized walled gardens owned by a small number of non-democratically controlled entities. On the one hand, many of us place an extremely high value on the free press being open to all, which historically has meant "free from government control." But as the "press" is increasingly not a physical object that one can personally own and publish on, but instead is a complex system of both publicly and privately owned network architecture and software systems, the extent to which the free speech is guaranteed when these powerful private entities are still allowed to restrict it on their near-ubiquitous platforms is pretty dubious.

On the other hand, most of us also currently recognize that private organizations have a right and even responsibility not to allow certain kinds of speech (child pornography, hate speech, incitements to violence, etc.) on their platforms. And more trivially, probably all of us here recognize the rights of individual websites to establish rules (even quite vague rules) regarding what user-submitted speech might be deleted: the strength of Metafilter's moderation is a large part of the reason most of us are here, and a quite a lot of it takes the form of summarily deleting users' speech. So where does specific networks' removal of users' speech cross from sensible moderation to unacceptable restrictions on free speech? Much like Metafilter moderation, I don't think there are any clear-cut rules to answer this question, but who are the "mods" who can perform this service for the Internet at large?

Personally, I don't know anything about this specific author. If it is true that he has a history of writing sexually explicit material with pedophilic themes, it certainly seems plausible that he posted something of that nature and that was the trigger for Google's shutdown of his account. If so, I can't say I disagree with that action; Google should not be required to host that kind of material on their servers. (If that makes me a "bookburner," well, fine, but if your rhetoric really can't distinguish between fascists collecting and destroying every copy of a book they can find versus a bookstore choosing not to carry that book, it seems like you're going to have a lot of difficulty discussing genuinely complex issues related to free speech.) But regardless of whether the action was justified or not, I think we should all be deeply concerned by the lack of transparency in decisions like this from Google and others. Without this transparency, it's impossible to evaluate whether their decision-making process has any merit, and we are left arguing over suppositions and speculations.

As for the question of "creative works remaining available into the future," when those works are available solely in digital form distributed on "the cloud" with nonexistent or poorly-traceable archived backups disconnected from the network, they are necessarily impermanent. Addressing the social questions of management, oversight, and transparency regarding such works is certainly worthwhile. But when (not if) we have an event like the 1859 solar storm, most of the active infrastructure of the Internet is going to be toast. Most of the unarchived digital creative output of the last twenty years is basically sand paintings, and this problem is somewhat orthogonal to the question of free speech and centralization of corporate control over the Internet.
posted by biogeo at 3:27 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


How many novels composed of animated GIFs have been created? You may not be interested in that kind of literary experiment, but if you are, having Cooper's work erased means something to you.

If Cooper had taken his work offline and enforced his copyrights to make sure that other copies were not extant, would that also be a "valid free speech issue"? Or would that be a "creator's rights" issue? The public is screwed either way, but it seems like those decrying Google's decision would be a lot more sympathetic if Cooper had chosen to screw the public instead.

If this is just a decision they made why is the procedure to disable without warning? Why can't an email be sent to anyone whose blog Google chooses to disable saying "We're going to disable your blog in x days/weeks. It's been made private for now, here's a link to tools that can export your data."

Because adding a warning phase might cost $X and is only likely to produce $y (being much less than $X) in revenue. Which is a perfectly reasonable way for a capitalist, for-profit enterprise Google to make decisions. If authors do not like that, then the onus is on authors to choose alternate hosting/backup methods.

Ditto for email. All of my personal emails are in gmail. If I were to lose access to my gmail account, it would suck a lot, but that potential suck isn't so bad, for me, that I am willing to give up the convenience and free(as in beer)ness of Google. If I had truly valuable stuff in there, I'd probably at least be proactive about taking advantage of the free (beer) tools that Google makes available for data export. But I don't, so I don't, and if/when google disables my account I will not whine to the Internet about it.

And while it is true that hard drives are not free, the means for making/preserving copies of things have never been free. It's just that for some works, that have met the criteria of various gatekeepers (e.g. publishers, librarians, etc), the costs of the preservation are borne by entities besides the authors themselves.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:41 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


he's not only lost art and correspondence but has probably been financially harmed as well.

If he'd had an actual contract, had an actual agreement, I'd be very sympathetic. But, as a culture, we have gotten lazy---"free" implies, requires service. He was trusting his art and livelihood to a big entity that was allowing him a one-sided deal, take it or leave it for him, but theirs to change at any time. As well as being a Cassandra for backups, I've always felt that none of the big tech companies could be trusted more than to look after their own interests first, Google, Facebook, MS, Apple, whomever. All these free services are deals with dragons and vaders, subject to alteration at any time. At least the devil kept his bargains.

OTOH, Google isn't subject to free speech any more than Metafilter should be. Calling for Google to host anything that isn't illegal is the same as saying that Metafilter shouldn't have moderation. Any host with any policies needs to have humans in the mix, and any host has to be able to set their own house rules. To force "free speech" on Google is make a great wrong on everyone, not just Google.
posted by bonehead at 3:47 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


There are no "free speech" responsibilities for non-government entities.

If we want to see equal protection of rights in the clouds then we'll need to federalize the dang clouds.

Also, to compare Metafilter and Google here is a bit off I reckon.

Metafilter is more akin to a semi-public club somewhat like the Council on Foreign Relations whereas Google's free cloud services are distinctly a public infrastructure project orders of magnitude larger. Google is much more akin to conventional infrastructure such as telephones and telegraphs in it's current manifestation.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 3:59 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


it seems like he is the one who chose to publish exclusively in a forum that doesn't promise availability of the works in perpetuity.

The problem is that people imagine that it does (promise a certain durability if not perpetuity). This is less about Google doing something wrong (though it seems they probably have) than about the broader implications of "the cloud" and strings-attached free hosting and the way people use them.

The speech issue is more implicit than explicit - this incident just illustrates how much power one hosting platform has.
posted by atoxyl at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Google is much more akin to conventional infrastructure such as telephones and telegraphs

In that case, you'll need to get some politician to nationalize it. If Google is a public utility, then it needs to be run and regulated like one, guaranteed profits and/or tax subsidies and all. Ma Bell 2.0.
posted by bonehead at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2016


Uh yeah, I'm not calling Google a book burner nor am I saying free speech is being limited.

One of the ramifications I see is that it seems by and large what is published is now published on digital publication platforms where we are encouraged to be our own press. But the company hosting your publications and press can retroactively remove consent at any time without giving the creator any recourse.

So the enterprise of free speech, when published on books, seems to require more effort to erase offending material, because there are thousands, maybe even millions of backups (in the form of the actual printed material) in the hands of the public.

Now you have what, 3 backups? And even that seems like precious few.

I agree the author needed to do a better job maintaining backups. He didn't. Countless others haven't. Obviously our technology, in opening up self publishing in such a democratic way, has a brittleness that paper publishing did not when it comes to the printed word outlasting the changing moral tastes (or T&C's) of the age.

Perhaps a peer to peer digital publishing plugin, where millions of distributed copies are made and stored on individual systems where people elect to participate in storage, would help?
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:11 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


If we want to see equal protection of rights in the clouds then we'll need to federalize the dang clouds.

Yes. In 2016, the Internet is a utility. Some level of democratic, rather than corporate, control over this kind of decision-making is necessary. But imposing more government control over basic infrastructure is not without problems, not least among which being, whose government? How do we avoid a few powerful governments from exerting yet more undemocratic control over the Internet that people of less powerful countries use? And how do we avoid the comically stupid decisions like the EU's "WARNING WARNING WARNING HERE BE COOKIES" laws?

Also, to compare Metafilter and Google here is a bit off I reckon.

Well, that difference in scale is exactly why I think it's interesting to compare (or rather contrast) the two. Size of platform is yet another of the difficult-to-assess, case-by-case factors that would seem to inform what kinds of speech are acceptable to be regulated. If Google cloned 100,000 copies of the Metafilter mod team and unleashed them on their content-hosting platforms like Blogger to improve the quality of discourse, we'd all be screaming bloody murder, and rightly so (except for the mods who would probably be screaming bloody existential crisis).
posted by biogeo at 4:12 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The problem is that people imagine that it does (promise a certain durability if not perpetuity).

Given this (not that I necessarily agree), what is should Google's responsibility be as far as disabusing people of this notion?

When Google Takeout launched, I saw banners in their apps explaining how to get my data out. Should a responsible hosting company run those banners more often? Should they require that users submit "proof of backup," the same way that states require proof of insurance in order to drive?

The glib answer is, of course, Google shouldn't delete stuff, but if we accept the premise that they have the right to, or, at least, don't have a moral obligation to take extraordinary steps to prevent data loss, then consumer education seems important.
posted by sparklemotion at 4:13 PM on July 18, 2016


(Annika Cicada, my "bookburner" comment was in response to late afternoon dreaming hotel and layceepee, who did actually use the phrase, not to you. Just in case that wasn't clear.)
posted by biogeo at 4:16 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


More education and perhaps better digital publishing solutions.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:16 PM on July 18, 2016


Thanks for clarifying! :-)
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:17 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, I understand he's worried about his content, but offline does not equal deleted. It's just not accessible. Given the scale of data Google works with (disclosure, I worked there once), it wouldn't be at all surprising if some complaint or content triggered an automated shutdown .

The problem in this case is that upon such a trigger, it should be Googles responsibility to contact the user and explain what happened. I seriously doubt that any data has actually been deleted, but the user should at least have the opportunity to retrieve it, even if Google will no longer host.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:20 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


2011 Paris Review Art of Fiction interview with Dennis Cooper, for anyone interested in knowing more about where this author is coming from.

I wonder what the reaction here would have been like if this had been, say, Samuel R. Delany's blog.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 4:25 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Perhaps a peer to peer digital publishing plugin, where millions of distributed copies are made and stored on individual systems where people elect to participate in storage, would help?

I think that's a great idea, and much closer to the original roots of what the Internet was built for. I mean, that's basically what we're already doing every time we visit a webpage: a copy is made and sent over the network, and stored temporarily on the viewer's device. Change "stored temporarily" into "voluntarily archived" and your idea has been made reality. Now, of course, you have to solve people's privacy concerns about what the archive of data on their computer might reveal about them, and figure out how to prevent malicious actors from hijacking the system for their own gain. But these are technological problems that technogeeks are good at. Perhaps the greater concern is how to get enough people to buy into the idea and voluntarily give up storage space on their systems to make it work.
posted by biogeo at 4:25 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Mmhmm. Seems like a solvable problem,right?

Lots of details to sort out. Seems like a good use of time though.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:32 PM on July 18, 2016


It's definitely an area which people've been working on. The usual problems pop up though, which is "How do you convince people to be alright with a significant amount of child porn being stored on their hard drives", which leads to a significant number of people using the service being people who're alright with that, which concentrates the matter. It's the same sort of problem that TOR-Darknet / cryptocoin groups have run into. When a selling point of your service is its making illegal things easier to do, you get a surprising number of people who're interested in doing those things (even if you're just interested in the spherical-cow abstract design of the whole thing)
posted by CrystalDave at 4:41 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you lose your shit, the technogeeks will not help you. They will giggle at you and make fun of your not understanding the fundamental principles and engineering of client-server models. This is kind of like firemen sitting around giggling at you because you weren’t aware of the inherent lightning-strike danger of improperly bonded CSST.

And this is why I don't feel bad about my complete lack of compassion in these situations, or my use of you as a object lesson. It's not improperly bonded CSST, it's walking around in a rain-storm with a large metal pole. It's not client-server models, it's "if something is important then keep a copy yourself instead of only trusting We-openly-don't-give-a-shit-about-you Incorporated to hold on to it for you". If you care so little about your own work that you refuse to learn the difference between a file and the internet, then no one could help you anyway.

One day I'll get a response other than "fuck off nerd" to trying to nicely help people to not have this happen and maybe I'll soften a bit. Not once in 15 years but one day I'm sure it will happen.
posted by Infracanophile at 4:43 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm thinking something that works like a massively distributed striped raid array where no one disk holds the complete copy and the bytes of data that are remotely stored are encrypted by the publisher? That way if you want to view an article as long as enough systems are online to recover the piece it will render. There's probably a fatal flaw in this that I'm not seeing.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:48 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Annika Cicada, there used to be a service called Wuala that did exactly that. They've since shut down and recommended Tresorit as an alternative, but I haven't researched it enough to know if it's any good.
posted by shponglespore at 4:55 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Isn't that what Tahoe-LAFS does?
posted by indubitable at 5:14 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


That's exactly what I was thinking. I wonder if this could turned into a browser and blogging platform plugin allowing users to opt-in and out.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:26 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Thanks for sharing that, I'm gonna check it out tonight and see what the possibilities are)
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:39 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Blaming Cooper for the situation because he didn't back up his data is a little like blaming a woman for trusting a guy who gave her a drink full of roofies. The problem isn't that Google's drive crashed -- which, yes, is a possibility that it would have been wise to anticipate -- but that Google apparently took it upon themselves to remove the work hosted on the blog. Cooper trusted Google not to do that, which IMO was completely reasonable of him, presuming that what was on the blog violated no laws.

To me, what should happen next depends on what was on the blog. If it's something patently illegal, I would presume Google has reported it to the authorities. If it's something Google just objects to morally but that isn't illegal, I think that's a little heavy-handed on their part but whatever, and that they should absolutely give Cooper the work back. It isn't theirs. Google effectively stole it from him. If they're not sure what exactly it is but they're concerned...well...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:18 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Google effectively stole it from him.

BRB going to the station to file a police report for every excellent and worthwhile* comment of mine that the Metafilter mods have deleted.

*every comment I make is excellent and worthwhile
posted by sparklemotion at 7:16 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Why the heck was he not publishing to his own site?

Because unless he owns the hardware and the pipes, there is not such thing as one's 'own site'.

back in the day before buying a domain was cheap, you could say put your blog up on the college's English website's student section. But if said college wanted to delete the data or discontinue the service you'd have the same issue.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:39 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Isn't that what Tahoe-LAFS does?

I think the new hotness in this space is IPFS.
posted by brett at 8:11 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


There are two not necessarily mutually exclusive rational objectives I think Google might have in mind in taking this action.

This is the beginning of a process designed to rid themselves of their most potentially objectionable and attack-provoking content in anticipation of a possible sharp rightward and highly moralistic turn in US society and government -- it's Trump-proofing, in other words.

Or, they are now hosting so much non revenue-generating stuff it's really beginning to eat into their profits and they want to stop doing that, so they're starting a campaign they hope will lead to a mass exodus with this guy, because relatively few people will step forward to defend him, as we see in this thread.
posted by jamjam at 8:32 PM on July 18, 2016


Only those people that understand regex are people whose opinion matter.
posted by aramaic at 8:53 PM on July 18, 2016


BRB going to the station to file a police report for every excellent and worthwhile* comment of mine that the Metafilter mods have deleted.

I mean, do you really think the two situations are analogous? If so, I would not use Google for this purpose (I don't now), and I don't see why anyone would use it at all. What is the point of a storage locker where the owners can on a whim open it up and set everything inside on fire? What good would that be to anybody?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:57 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean, do you really think the two situations are analogous?

Yes, in that both Metafilter and Google (the Blogspot portion of it) are places where users can post content.

What is the point of a storage locker where the owners can on a whim open it up and set everything inside on fire? What good would that be to anybody?

That's the problem -- Blogspot isn't a storage locker. It's a billboard, or maybe a community notice board. A really really big one, that normally no one needs to take anything down from. But, sometimes your band's poster gets taken down, which is fine because you can put another one up... unless the only copy you had was the one you posted in the first place.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:19 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


This really sucks for Cooper, but I can't really understand the naivete involved with not keeping a local copy of your own creative work that you spend countless hours on, even if you aren't at all tech savvy.

A blogging platform isn't a storage locker. It may feel secure, it may be around for years, but from the beginning it's someone else's paper that's been publishing the work you want it to with little editorial supervision, a paper that can pull all of your content from its pages at any time.

I hope he's able to restore his blog and email or at the very least get archive access directly from them, but if nothing else this should be a very strong cautionary tale to every writer/creator who thinks a hosted blog belongs to them in any way.
posted by girih knot at 9:22 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Regardless of his content, its a lesson to any content creator or humble no name blogger who values their own work.

2006 Typepad went down and woke me up on need to purchase domain.

2008 Friendly ex client host "accidentally" deleted entire URL when much larger competitor joined their service

2011 Friendly employer simply changed their entire website without notice to researchers and writers

2014 Own domain, hosting in remote arctic village, website publishing built by mefite.

As for google, they disabled my firstname.lastname gmail account because I could not prove to their satisfaction I was over 13 (I've been writing on metafilter since age 2) and refused to pay them $1 hostage

they keep the profile of my old beta account with a nym permanently disabled with the help link in an infinite loop

I barely use gmail now
posted by infini at 9:46 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the link to IPFS.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:19 PM on July 18, 2016


On reading said link THANK YOU EVEN MORE.

I love when I have a random ass thought for an application and think "shits to easy, would never work" then come to find out actual badass implementations of it already exist. Serves as evidence that I'm out of my "I have a cool app idea!" Phase of my career (usually said ideas are total crap) and actually...just maybe grasping the potential of our world.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:25 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


A coworker recently asked me to explain "the cloud," and fortunately I'd heard a succinct definition online a few days earlier:

"The Cloud" translates directly to "someone else's computer."

Someone else's computer may have a lot more storage space than yours, and may be accessible wherever you are, and you may have a very detailed contract confirming that you have access to it, but... it really is someone else's computer. If they pull the plug on it, you may be able to sue them; that won't get you your data back.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:21 AM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think the free-speech-online debate should have gotten past this kind of law-of-the-excluded-middle thinking by now.

Well, it has and it hasn't. #sorrynotsorry
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:52 AM on July 19, 2016


Is there anyone here who's willing to defend Google's complete lack of warning before pulling the plug on a user's content? I'm curious. To me, that's the most urgent and easily fixed issue here.
posted by mediareport at 8:21 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is there anyone here who's willing to defend Google's complete lack of warning before pulling the plug on a user's content?

As has been already mentioned up-thread, the cost of doing this (in terms of human interaction time, if nothing else) almost certainly far outweighs the benefit from Google's perspective. Especially when there are accusations of illegal material, where being seen to delay in dealing with it could just create more (PR/Legal/whatever) knots to untangle.

While I have some limited sympathy for the guy, if you're not paying for it then you're not the customer - you're the product. Google have never been coy about saying that they owe free users next to nothing, and then offering paid (e.g. Google Apps for Business) products with higher levels of support and more promised uptime, etc.
posted by A Robot Ninja at 5:58 AM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Doesn't mean I'm not going to spend this evening looking into how best to get my stuff off Google's servers though, so I guess it's a helpful reminder for me.
posted by A Robot Ninja at 5:59 AM on July 20, 2016


How to Get Deleted by Instagram. Popped up in another Metafilter discussion, it's a year old, but a very similar sort of problem of Instagram just deleting accounts with no explanation and no option to get your data back.
posted by Nelson at 8:48 AM on July 20, 2016


I don't buy that the cost of providing a copy of a disabled blog is something Google couldn't figure out how to do cheaply.
posted by edeezy at 6:46 PM on July 20, 2016


And sure they shouldn't do that if there's illegal content, but in that case they should be reporting it to the authorities anyways. Like, it shouldn't require tons of extra worker hours to figure out if someone's blog is hosting illegal stuff, those hours would be a cost anyways if law enforcement had to be notified.
posted by edeezy at 6:49 PM on July 20, 2016




More coverage from The New Yorker.
posted by edeezy at 12:00 PM on July 24, 2016


Roxane Gay NYT op-ed: The Blog That Disappeared

Though it's a little out of date as Google's lawyers have been in discussions with Cooper's lawyers. Hopefully there's a resolution soon.
posted by edeezy at 1:00 PM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


As if in response to the "if you aren't the customer, you're the product/don't trust free services" arguments, Reply All's most recent episode tells the story of data lost by the paying customers of a service called Picturelife.

[fanfare]
posted by sparklemotion at 12:53 PM on August 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


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