Violet Blue Purged from Boing Boing, Boing Boing Talks Back


Nothing rawks the blog world like a scandale. Here's one for the hour: Boing Boing has been removing posts written by, or in reference to, Violet Blue, a sex columnist for the SF Chronicle.

Excerpt from the LA Times blog:

Almost all of the deleted blog entries ... were posted not by [Blue] but by BoingBoing writers highlighting and linking to her work. Blue said that none of the ... posts were particularly scandalous, illegal, or "disgusting." Not all were even about sex. The one post Blue did write herself -- also deleted -- was edited by [Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin] before publication.

A source speculates that Federated Media, which sells ad space for Boing Boing and other uber-popular online sites, might have pressured Boing Boing to nix the Blues.

Open source sex meets Big Business's big-ass eraser. Sinister. But as far as I can see, FM and Boing Boing have an amiable relationship: "Federated Media ... not only get business, but they get blogging too," Boing Boing recently wrote. Federated Media also sells ad space for many other popular blogs.

Boing Boing responded to the "internet shitstorm" early this morning. An excerpt from the post:

[Violet's] posts were removed from public view a year ago. Violet behaved in a way that made us reconsider whether we wanted to lend her any credibility or associate with her. It's our blog and so we made an editorial decision, like we do every single day. We didn't attempt to silence Violet. We unpublished our own work. There's a big difference between that and censorship.

While I'm personally iffy about wiping archives to disassociate from a person -- as opposed to being frank with that person and never working with her again -- I can respect Boing Boing pulling the "editorial decision" card. We don't really know what happened between it and Violet and it's probably none of our business.

Still, as one BB commenter put it, "In the face of that damage, y'all's continuing decision not to tell us what's up is disheartening, but maybe we'll get over it."

I don't know what it is about blogging, but readers expect a certain degree of frankness mixed with all the business we do behind the scenes. It's a courtesy we didn't always get from newspapers as they began consolidating under larger companies.

But like newspapers, we're also held accountable for what's in our past. We may have the capability to delete stuff, but abusing that ability is frowned upon, especially when the deletion rate is high and systematic -- which would be the case if you wanted to wipe away all traces of a professional relationship.

I feel a slippery slope coming on...

by Angela Natividad    Jul- 1-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Online, Opinion, Publishing   

Enjoy what you've read? Subscribe to Adrants Daily and receive the daily contents of this site each day along with free whitepapers.



Who cares? I've never heard of Boing Boing. They certainly don't sound like a credible news source, just another meaningless, pointless website in a galaxy of sites that are the same, so who cares what they do or do not post?

Not me!

Posted by: sarah on July 1, 2008 2:11 PM

Boing, Boing, B-gone!

Never heard of Violet or Boing....until now.

Perhaps that's the plan?

Posted by: John Gillett on July 1, 2008 2:18 PM

@sarah really? BoingBoing has a monthly unique audience of about a million readers. And is one of the key blogs that form an influential set of digital publications that spawn peripheral blog posts and mainstream/traditional media coverage of events.

Violet Blue was named by Forbes a top web celebrity in 2008.

I hate to say it, but to dismiss a property/person like that is to put yourself squarely in the "you don't get it" camp. I'm not trying to flame you...but those are the facts.


Posted by: Peter Corbett on July 1, 2008 2:21 PM

We didn't attempt to silence Violet. We unpublished our own work. There's a big difference between that and censorship.

No. No, it isn't. Self-Bowdlerization is functionally identical to Bowdlerization imposed by others -- it could be argued, actually, that it's worse, the publishing equivalent of believing in thoughtcrime.

Posted by: Warren on July 1, 2008 2:44 PM

Here's the best theory I've come up with - and DO feel free to send this around the blogosphere, since hitting on the wrong answer will get the real answer just as surely as hitting on the real answer will get no response - it all comes down to this article on friend-of-boingboing Amanda Congdon:
This is a pretty blatant slam on Congdon for dishonesty regarding her corporate sponsorships, and may in fact have been related to Congdon leaving ABC ( I believe I heard a rumor about them getting upset when they found out about the side vlogging).
Essentially, Violet Blue possibly got Amanda Congdon fired, or at least that's what it looks like. I would imagine that very likely, VB found out about this in a Boing Boing-related way. It could even be that VB didn't get her fired, but betrayed their trust in revealing the info about her.
Which is why they're not saying what the reason is. Because it's actually the only thing that would make them look more hypocritical... because it's anti-transparency.
But note that the only hint we get in their note of explanation is that VB's posts were removed about a year ago - and this was the only really noteworthy thing she did around that time; at least, publicly.

Posted by: Susie Q on July 1, 2008 3:05 PM

You may be right, Susie -- at least that's the most substantive theory I've seen -- but OH MY GOD is it a boring teensy scale soap opera. Even the source article you link is a snooze-fest. I have known about Boing Boing for years and years, and have heard Doctorow speak, and yet I've never had the slightest interest in visiting that site.

But yeah, I think if one were previously committed to viewing them as a font of transparency, one is obliged to stop patronizing them now. "Unpublishing", as Angela notes, is indeed too slippery a slope. If post content is arbitrarily lost to posterity then a site can't be relied upon or linked to.

Posted by: B on July 1, 2008 4:36 PM

I don't like the attempt to edit the past. History is history, and it would be far better to make a statement about a change in policy for future use of the site than to edit what has already been published.

The only thing they did here was remind people of the posts and bring it all up again.

Posted by: Brad Waller on July 1, 2008 6:31 PM


I'm surprised you can respect their "editorial decision" car given the very open and free nature of AdRants. Just seems very strange. Are you concerned about a backlash from BoingBoing or something else? Just trying to understand.


Posted by: Adam Kmiec on July 2, 2008 10:51 AM

Blogging's very gray. We can toot the "accountable news source!" horn until it suits us to remind everyone that "hey, I'm just a blogger. Fuck off."

If Boing Boing takes the latter road, it's certainly not out of bounds. Why take any of us seriously? We're not journalists; we're all spewing op-eds in our pyjamas, right? "If you want real news, read THE NEW YORK TIMES!"

So when I say I can respect that BB reminded us all "it's our blog!!", I'm saying I get why it thought it could react the way it did.

I also think it harms the credibility of bloggers that are willing to stand behind what they've published, transcend that "it's my blog!" mentality and be honest when something ugly happened. But that's a hard road, and it's easier to talk about -- and to demand -- than to do.

Wondering whether you're living up to the promise of transparency is something that'll keep you awake at night. Some things need to be kept back, for discretion's sake, to protect good people. Other things, however ugly, need to be aired, hopefully for the common good.

It's the difference between muckraking and good investigative reporting. But how do you draw that line, and who holds the chalk?

If I don't know the answer to that question, I can't condemn BB.

Posted by: Angela on July 2, 2008 11:28 AM

The post needed to be deleted so Doctorow could plug his book for the 5000th time.

Also, someone made a steampunk tea cozy and pix needed to be shared.

Posted by: armin t on July 2, 2008 1:06 PM

thanks Angela, for the this deleightful conversation starter of a post and the succcinct and cogent comments too!

Posted by: arthur barbato on July 2, 2008 3:52 PM

Armin, it frightens me what you might or might not know.

Arthur, you are very very welcome.

Posted by: Angela on July 3, 2008 12:30 PM