Ghost in the machine trips up accidental traveller

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 January, 2010, 12:00am

You think Beijing making Google censor its search engine was bad? It seems Google does a bit of inadvertent censorship of its own. Hong Kong-based journalist Michael Taylor launched the Accidental Travel Writer in late October using, a popular service owned by Google.

This week, without warning, Taylor returned home one night and found his whole blog, a travelogue with interesting graphics and legitimate links, deleted. All he got, by way of an explanation after the fact, was this: 'Your blog ... has been reviewed and confirmed as in violation of our Terms of Service for: SPAM. In accordance to these terms, we've removed the blog and the URL is no longer accessible.'

Taylor subsequently found out what happened. His blog was mistakenly identified as doing 'link spamming'. The practice, similar to spam, is defined by the US-based company in a policy statement as 'irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text, along with a large number of links, usually all pointing to a single site'.

Having invested a fair amount of time and effort on creating the blog and attracting a small group of followers, Taylor was shell-shocked to find his beloved baby described as irrelevant, repetitive and nonsensical.

'I have determined that 'robots' were employed by, and they automatically shut my site down,' he said.

'There was no human intervention. So what's the difference between what a spammer does and what they've done to me? They are engaging in the very activity that they claim to be fighting.

'Spam is electronically generated junk mail. So their response is to launch electronically generated robots that evaluate and lock sites suspected of being spam.

'I received a notification, with no protocol for either challenge or appeal - no contact address - nothing! Tried and convicted without a trial.'

Taylor has since launched a new blog with a different host. Check it out at: