On Friday last week, the website hosting platform called WordPress.com which is run by Automattic, abruptly shut down several well established feminist blogs that were hosted on their platform, without warning.
The "unapologetically radical feminists" group Women's Liberation Front, a.k.a WoLF were the owners of one of the suspended blogs, called GenderIdentitywatch.com. Another well-established blog called gendertrender, had eight years of posts wiped out by Wordpress & Automatticc. They received an identical email, after their content had already been made unavailable.
In an email titled "Important information regarding our wordpress.com account", Sal P of Automatticc states;
We received a report regarding the publication of personal/private information on one of your blogs. Specifically, the malicious publication of private details related to gender identity, including former names.
This rule is listed here, and is a recent change to Wordpress' terms of service. In plain English, this means that you can not link and discuss news articles like this one about convicted sex offender Karen White, formerly known as Stephen Terence Wood, in this manner. Because apparently, Wordpress wants to assist convicted sex offenders in their goal to assume new identities not connected to their previous crimes.
It also means you can't talk about Bruce Jenner's Olympic medal, that Caitlyn Jenner wore while posing for the cover of Sports Illustrated. As Bruce, Caitlyn won the gold medal in 1976 Olympic Men's Decathlon. Ironically there was no women's decathlon.
Automattic's email suggests that the blog owner can download all of their data, and host it elsewhere using their download tool they make available "for a limited time." This useless tool is simply .xml files, which refers to links for the media files hosted on wordpress.com. When Wordpress shut down the domain at Wordpress.com, they also made downloading the media files impossible. Didn't think that through, did you, Wordpress engineers? It's so shortsighted, I literally headdesked.
With Wordpress now holding both content, in the way of media files and domain names connected to the accounts hostage, WoLF decided to take legal action.
Years worth of screenshots, PDFs, and related data files, are now threatened with imminent deletion. WoLF states : "All of this information, to our knowledge, was originally part of the public domain, even if it’s no longer available online anywhere besides the reporting archives of feminist blogs. No evidence has been provided that so much as a single post on any of these feminist sites contained any incitement to violence or other criminal activity, or in any way constituted speech not protected under First Amendment rights."
Wordpress gave absolutely no warning to the account owners before they shut these blogs down. A WoLF spokeswoman explains; "I can tell you right off, I saw no notice from WordPress before the suspension. They also refused to answer my questions about what the specific content was they had a problem with, or give us a chance to fix it, they’ve said nothing about their failure to make our media files available, even after our lawyer sent them that letter."
When asked if WoLF thinks the new terms of service and subsequent terminations of sites, is purposely targeting feminist blogs in particular, a WoLF spokesperson responded affirmatively.
"There's no question in my mind that the new terms of service and termination actions are purposely targeting feminist blogs in particular. There are websites unrelated to feminism that name prominent trans activists like Charles "Charlotte" Clymer and Dave "Danielle" Muscato that remain up and active. Further, the new terms by their design target feminist websites because they start with the premise that it's inherently "malicious" to publish the current or former legal name of a someone who claims to have a gender identity."
All it takes to get a blog taken down at Wordpress now, is apparently some time on your hands and this reporting tool. So if you host anything at all on Wordpress, now would be a good time to remove it before someone else does.
Name brands and even local news sites use WordPress because it's an easy and very flexible CMS, and often they subscribe to Wordpress.com's hosting services. If you have set up a Wordpress site for any of your clients, keep in mind that their terms of service state that "Automattic may terminate your access to all or any part of our Services at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately." They are not kidding.
GallusMag, the owner of now suspended Gendertrender noted in her statement that the selective deletion is a form of censorship.
I support a Congressional Inquiry into the selective censorship conducted by US based social media and blogging platforms. I support government regulation of such companies as public utilities, subject to constitutional law regarding freedom of speech.
Adland has reached out to Wordpress for comment and have at press time not received any reply.
Update : It has been brought to our attention that Wordpress change their terms of service page, sometime after the 16th of November. Here are the terms of service as archived the 17 Nov 2018 18:24:07 UTC. Here's the same page, as archived the 21st of Nov 2018 21:58:10 UTC. I hope WoLF's lawyer is paying attention, as the WoLF operated blog was taken down the 16th of November. Oh Wordpress, you dun goofed.