Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Overturning the Problogger Ban...

Here's an example of how Web 2.0 sites can produce real results.

One of the most popular bloggers in cyberspace, Problogger, was recently banned from the social bookmarking site, StumbleUpon. One of his fans on Twitter informed him of his banishment (no one from StumbleUpon notified him directly), and so whenever someone tried to bookmark his site, a Draconian message appeared saying,


You cannot rate or comment on this website. It has been banned from StumbleUpon because the owner has been abusing our service, or has asked that their site not be included in StumbleUpon

Well, exactly 1 hour and 44 minutes later, the ban on Problogger was lifted.

How did that happen? Apparently, several different social media sites are to be credited. Problogger breaks down the process in detail, but essentially it boils down to this: After his followers told him he was being banned, he wrote a quick blog post about it, which was then re-distributed on Twitter, then Plurk, and then Digg. Ordinary people who network on those sites quickly took up the cause, boosting the story's visibility, until finally a PR-conscious community manager at StumbleUpon emailed him to say that his site would no longer be banned.

This is grassroots hacktivism at its finest. Not only did the various cyber-communities overturn a banishment that even an internet heavyweight couldn't manage himself, but they did it through self-organizing, and in under two hours.

Of course it helps that StumbleUpon is a social media site itself, and therefore very attuned to the community that advocated on Problogger's behalf. In fact, it was largely their own user-base requesting to lift the ban. So, let's not get carried away and expect Twitter, Plurk, and Digg to overthrow the censorship policies of China anytime soon.

However, there is one vitally significant development to extract from this case, and it is this: the increasing willingness (and effectiveness) of online communities to collectively mobilize in support of a cause.


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