Recently, I personally realized the importance of being mindful and cognizant of a blog platform’s Terms of Service before signing up on it and dedicating thousands of hours and sweat building up a following and loading it up with content.
This week, WordPress.com suspended a blog I have hosted on it. Last year, I purchased a premium package on it so I could have a personal doman name and could edit the CSS codes. I learned that it was more restrictive than WordPress.org, but I was looking for a FREE low cost temporary solution. I chose that platform because it was an easy placeholder and I was thinking WordPress would be a more professional home than Blogger or Tumblr.
I populated the blog with guest posts I had gotten over the years from a company. Those posts previously were hosted on another blog I own. I later discovered the supplier was one of those nefarious link building companies that offer bloggers free guest posts in exchange for a link. The supplier then used ghosting techniques to divert the link to their clients’ websites for the purposes of increasing the Page Rank of their clients’ sites. Foolish me.
The ill-fated and naive decision to accept the posts came to a head Sunday when I used Fiverr.com and got an overseas data miner to navigate my latest slot of posts from my Blogger blog to the WordPress.com site. Wordpress took notice. First, it was alerted to the foreign access to my site, then it took a look around and saw so much of the guest posts and must have made the determination that my site was created for the sole purpose of promoting link building and advertising. It shut my site down and put up a notice that it had been suspended. That was not the case.
Needless to say, I promptly opened up a Blogger account and am planning to navigate that blog back to a platform that will not yank off my entire site. With Blogger and other platforms, evidence of suspected link building may just cause your page to lose its PR. At least it would remain and you won’t have the embarrassing problem of visitors seeing a note that your page has been suspended! No Bueno!
A friend alerted me to another instance where Tumblr yanked off a popular site for violating copyright. Popular blogger Bohema had over 100,000 posts on two Tumblr blogs dedicated to fashion, photography and art. After getting complaints from owners of a mere 5 images, Tumblr simply shut down the site without first giving her opportunity to respond, settle, pull the images in question down.
Consider yourself warned: If you’re operating a blog on Tumblr and the site receives a complaint that you’ve used copyrighted material, it can — and will — shut down your account, erasing everything you’ve ever posted.
When Tumblr shut down her account in June, she lost five years of work. Tumblr did this because over the past two years, the company had received five complaints from copyright holders who said Bohemea had used photographs without permission.
A spokesperson for Tumblr said, “Tumblr removes any content we receive a valid DMCA complaint for. We are also required by law to enforce a policy removing accounts of repeat infringers,” according to Hubspot.
So irrespective of the fact that most people don’t really bother to read the Terms of Service of a platform, they are considered technically or de jure to have given that it is a condition to agreeing to launch a site on the platform. In theory, you have been warned.
Tumblr hosts more than 100 million blogs, and draws 300 million unique visitors per month. Bohema’s case could have a chilling effect.
Like Bohema, I wish I would have been given warning and opportunity to explain myself in advance of getting my site disrupted versus what happened.
I explained the situation and a contact for WordPress.com restored by site, but too little too late. I am now well aware of the risks as you cannot always be too careful. It is easy to accidentally fall in a link building trap or without thorough due diligence post something that is copyrighted to someone else, even if you did not intend to willfully.
In my case, my experience has had a chilling effect and I am going to build my site elsewhere. Should it had taken off and I used WordPress.com’s version of AdSense, that is money that it could have made that it will no longer because of its “yank first, ask question” later policy.
There are no shades of gray. A good rule of thumb is to really read the TOS and navigate or select a platform that has some semblance of due process before it pulls your site and possibly harms your reputation or effect your sales.
Jay Jay Ghatt is also editor at Techyaya.com, founder of the JayJayGhatt.com and JayJayGhatt.com where she teaches online creators how to navigate digital entrepreneurship and offers Do-It-For-You Blogging Service. She manages her lifestyle sites BellyitchBlog, Jenebaspeaks and JJBraids.com and is the founder of BlackWomenTech.com 200 Black Women in Tech On Twitter. Her biz podcast 10 Minute Podcast is available on iTunes and Player.fm. Follow her on Twitter at @Jenebaspeaks. Buy her templates over at her legal and business templates on Etsy shop!