Patterico's Pontifications

5/14/2011

Don’t Let Google Off the Hook: Evidence Aplenty That Cretin “Nitecruzr” Represents Google — And Even Has the Ability to Flag Your Google Account!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:55 pm

I keep reading that the Google support guy “nitecruzr” who heaped abuse on Ann Althouse was just a volunteer, and that Google shouldn’t be blamed for his actions. For example, an Instapundit reader writes Glenn to say nitecruzr “doesn’t appear” to be a Google employee.

Maybe not . . . but this post proves that Google chose to allow nitecruzr to represent Google with respect to problems at Blogger web sites. And if you allow Google to pretend that nitecruzr did not represent Google, you are letting Google off the hook.

I am not just saying this, I am about to prove it. Here’s the executive summary:

First, nitecruzr was the guy at a Google.com domain who was allowed to interface with Althouse, at a web site where Google directs people to go to “write us.” (If you have any doubts on that score, I elaborate here, and at the end of this post.) Second, nitecruzr had the ability to delete comments on that forum. Third, he claims to have the ability to escalate a support request. Fourth, and most important, from comments at the Althouse site, we now learn that this guy has the ability to flag your Google account for review.

I’ll work these points in reverse order, because that last point is the one I find most eye-opening.

Nitecruzr’s Ability to Flag the Google Accounts of People who Objected to his Behavior

From a comment at Althouse by someone called “EnigmatiCore”:

It really needs to be highlighted how those who made comments, subsequently deleted by Nitecruzr, had their accounts flagged as needing ‘verification’ due to ‘unusual activity’– making it that we either had to give them our phone number, or lose access to our accounts.

It happened to several of us.

(All emphasis in this post is mine.)

I left a comment asking for anyone who experienced that to write me at patterico AT gmail DOT com. I have since received this e-mail from EnigmatiCore, who elaborates on his story:

I wrote a fairly lengthy comment on the Google help boards. I did not name call, nor make any personal attacks. I offered constructive criticism, including suggesting that Nitecruzr contemplate why all of his posts on that thread had been scored as ‘unhelpful’ by readers, and pointing out that there was nothing in the links he was providing even remotely relevant to the matter at hand, and that his assumptions were incompatible with the tenets of good customer service.

I waited a few minutes, and hit refresh to see if there was anything further. I saw that a few people had clicked the ‘was this answer helpful’ link on my comment, and saw a few others making complaints, but no reply from Nitecruzr.

A few minutes later, I hit refresh again. This time, my post was gone, and there was a strange, out of context “2 of 100″ comment from Nitecruzr. I decided to go back to Althouse’s backup blog and make a comment there about how much of a jerk that guy was, but I found when I did that my Google account had been temporarily disabled due to ‘unusual activity’. Further, to recover my account, they would need a phone number to either send a text message or a voice message with a verification code to enter.

I contemplated just walking away from that account because, why would I give my phone number to them especially with the way things were going down? But I gave in, and after getting the text message (which I still have) I was able to enter the validation code and resume logging in.

If nitecruzr is just some random dude with no connection to Google, how does he have the ability to flag your account for calling him rude and unprofessional?

[UPDATE: See the update below for another example of someone who criticized nitecruzr and had his account flagged. He was unable to access his Gmail account until he gave Google his cell phone number.]

Nitecruzr’s Ability to Delete Forum Comments and Escalate Requests for Review

The above e-mail I quoted provides some evidence of nitecruzr’s ability to delete posts at the help forum provided by Google. That point is clear to everyone who has followed the controversy, but if you want to brush up on the full record of nitecruzr’s shabby treatment of Althouse, go to this post of mine, which has a link to every comment left on the board by nitecruzr, Althouse, and third parties. If you click the link you will see numerous complaints from third parties who objected to the way that nitecruzr was deleting his taunts to Althouse and then pretending that she was getting outraged over other comments of his that were neutral, such as this:

OK, this is escalated to Blogger Support on your behalf.

We are sincerely sorry for any inconvenience which we are causing.

Note that, even on those rare occasions when nitecruzr was being polite, he was showing that he represented Google. He uses the term “we” and he represents that he has the ability to escalate Althouse’s problem to Blogger Support.

Ah, but that’s just nitecruzr saying he is part of the “we” that represents Google. What is Google saying? Turns out, they’re saying the same thing, because . . .

When Google Says “Write Us” You Get Someone Like Nitecruzr

The final point is to establish that nitecruzr, whether he is paid by Google or not, represents Google. At this page I take you through the steps that someone with a Blogger blog must go through to contact Google. At the end of the process, though, when you have exhausted all other alternatives, you get an option to “write us”:

Read what that says. Write “us” for help. They aren’t saying: “go to this third-party forum for help.” They are saying write “us” — Google — for help. And here is what happens when you click that:

That’s the same http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/blogger/ address that Althouse found herself at. A forum where someone like nitecruzr represents himself and Google as “we” or “us”; where he has the ability to delete posts at will; where he can escalate issues to Blogger support; and where he heaps abuse on people asking for help.

This is not a “nitecruzr issue,” folks. It’s a Google issue. Google needs to step up and take responsibility for what it did to Althouse.

You might wonder why I appear so invested in this. Well, a big company once tried to take away blog-related property from me, too: my domain, patterico.com, in which I had invested years of sweat equity. The company that stole it (or, at a minimum, allowed it to be hijacked by a corporate cousin), 1&1, was every bit as unresponsive and rude as Google (yes, Google) was to Althouse. I can tell you that, as a blogger, watching years of your life get pissed away by a big company that doesn’t seem to care is not fun. For me, it took the media getting involved for something to happen. For Althouse, it took the involvement of Instapundit. What do the little guys do?

So this is personal. And I say Google needs to answer for this. I’m waiting.

UPDATE: I just got this e-mail from Dead Dog Bounce, who criticized nitecruzr for altering the thread in dishonest ways:

Hi Patterico,

I’m the evil genius behind the “Dead Dog Bounce” comment on the Althouse thread. If possible, I’d prefer that my real name were kept out of general circulation.

I signed up to comment on the Althouse thread. When I went to access my mail today, for the first time since September 2004 when I opened my gmail account, I had to provide a cellphone number to verify my account.

I’ve used gmail as my primary email address since 2004. I’ve got a blog (collecting tumbleweed) on Blogger. it occurs to me that I need to start thinking, at the very least about disaster planning in case Google takes a dislike to me. I’m
genuinely scared of them now.

Thanks for highlighting this issue. Google are of a size and reach now that Microsoft can only dream of. Anyone with a gmail account is essentially trusting their identity to a company that makes a selling point of not having any point of
contact. Only stupid people ignore threats like that.

Wow.

UPDATE x2: And nitecruzr is still allowed by Google to represent the face of “Google help” — even today, even after his dishonest and abusive treatment of Althouse yesterday. Again: wow.

UPDATE x3: I just got locked out of my Google account. I now have to provide a cell phone number to get back in. This is what I saw when I tried to access Gmail:

Do I want to give Google my cell phone number? No. But I currently rely on Gmail. So I am faced with a tough choice.

I will probably give in. And I will probably explore new options for e-mail.

I will have a new post about this soon. I am locked out of Google Reader as well. I plan to explore what else is disabled, for the offense of criticizing nitecruzr.

UPDATE x4: It happened to Hoystory as well. He says so in the comments. That makes four of us.

UPDATE x5: Oh, I forgot. My co-blogger Aaron told me by Gmail (before it went down) that it happened to him too. And, like Hoystory, he criticized nitecruzr on a forum thread. (I did today as well, on this one. It has since been deleted, but I have screenshots, of course.)

So that’s five.

348 Responses to “Don’t Let Google Off the Hook: Evidence Aplenty That Cretin “Nitecruzr” Represents Google — And Even Has the Ability to Flag Your Google Account!”

  1. Google’s inaction on this matter will just encourage additional cyber-anarchy.
    We are allegedly a society that operates under the Rule of Law, and underlying those laws are Good Manners (the Golden Rule).
    Without any of that lies anarchy, and survival of the strongest.
    Is that where Google wants to go?

    AD-RtR/OS! (3ddda9)

  2. I altered the post to remove EnigmatiCore’s initials.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  3. Over a hour and a half ago, this happened at with my attempting to comment @ Legal Insurrection

    JP said…
    First they came for Althouse,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t Althouse.

    Then they came for Jacobson,
    and I did speak out..

    Google just erased my brilliant comment, possibly because it contained the word RED(s), in place of the word democrat/democratic/democracy.

    So, we shall see what, how, when, where on this comment. The why, is anyone’s guess, but I could take a stab at it and quite possibly have A second comment obliterated.

    Second comment excuse:

    Your OpenID credentials could not be verified.

    Which is false, I’ve used that same OpenID, prior to..

    Lemme’ try another..

    May 14, 2011 4:36 PM

    JP (508ef3)

  4. the trust is just gone

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  5. Still reading, but hit a “straw man alert” early on:

    “If nitecruzr is just some random dude with no connection to Google ….”

    No one is saying that. He’s obviously connected enough to have some sort of admin privileges on that forum.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  6. “But this incident still comes down to some guy — some volunteer who is neither employee nor even independent contractor for Google, and for whose acts and statements Google affirmatively disclaimed responsibility — being rude on the internet.” — Beldar

    Patterico (c218bd)

  7. No one is saying that. He’s obviously connected enough to have some sort of admin privileges on that forum.

    Yes, that is one of four points I made above: that he can delete posts on the forum.

    How about my other points?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  8. Okay, I’ve read the whole thing.

    You didn’t quote the Google Terms of Service. I think they’re pertinent, since they disclose that volunteer users who aren’t Google employees, and for whose actions Google disclaims responsibility, do indeed have some sort of admin privileges.

    You didn’t cite any of the indicators which reveal that this guy isn’t a Google employee.

    You did reveal a personal bias, for which I commend you, and I doubt it has any clouding effect on your judgment here even though you insist that this is somehow “personal.” Certainly bloggers — you, me, Prof. Althouse, whoever — may have valuable property rights in and great sentimental regard for their blogging.

    I still think you’re overstating the case for Google’s derivative responsibility for its non-employee, non-agent’s statements and actions, but we’re repeating ourselves now.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  9. It is your portrayal of this fellow as “some guy being rude on the Internet” to which I object, Beldar. If that is a strawman it is one of your formulation, and it does not take account of the fairly considerable power (disabling someone’s Google account!) that has been given to this cretin.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  10. You didn’t quote the Google Terms of Service. I think they’re pertinent, since they disclose that volunteer users who aren’t Google employees, and for whose actions Google disclaims responsibility, do indeed have some sort of admin privileges.

    OK. That’s nice. Can we get off the topic of admin privileges, and move on to my other points?

    You didn’t cite any of the indicators which reveal that this guy isn’t a Google employee.

    No, because I don’t think that’s the relevant point. I stated in the post that an Instapundit reader says the guy doesn’t appear to be a Google “employee,” and I said “maybe not, but . . .” — meaning even if we concede that point, they have given him considerable powers whether he is paid or not, and they cannot “disclaim responsibility” for his actions if they choose to give him responsibilities (like disabling Google accounts until a phone number is provided) that one would normally think would be given only to employees.

    This constant refrain of yours that Google “disclaims responsibility” is cheerfully evading the point of the powers that I showed Google gives their “volunteers” like this guy. Powers that go beyond simply moderating some forum.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  11. Patterico, why did you quote one of my sentences, without comment, in #6 above? You think my sentence was equivalent to saying he’s “just some random dude with no connection to Google”?

    I don’t. I think your formulation is substantially different, an overstatement of an opposing position made for purposes of knocking down that overstatement, i.e., a straw-man argument. No?

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  12. Let’s focus, please, on the temporary disabling of someone’s Google account just after they complained about nitecruzr.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  13. By the way, Christoph is leaving scads of manic posts in moderation that are confirming the wisdom of my banning him. You’re wasting your time, Christoph.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  14. You don’t think whether the guy is an employee is even relevant to the question of Google’s responsibility for his statements or actions? Seriously?

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  15. Patrick,

    Even if nitcruzr is former CEO Eric Schmidt (and I know he’s not), so what? Blogger is a free service and users like Ann Althouse get a lot of value without having to pay anything. So unless you can show Google violated its Terms of Service, you can be offended at his rudeness but I don’t see the point of taking this so personally.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  16. Hi all. I just wanted to say that it is my understanding that Nitecruzr is more than just a guy and is fairly involved, through one of his websites, with Google customer service employees in a manner inconsistent with the idea that he is just some random guy.

    My understanding in this regard was gleaned from some post I read last night. Unfortunately, I cannot remember precisely where this post was made and as such admit that what I understand to be true is not proven here and now.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  17. You mention not letting google off the hook, but what would that mean? What “hook” should google be on? They set up a free service in this manner, with little to no support and disclaiming the activities of people on its forum. I’m guessing those two are connected (the “free” and manner they set up this service). This is just about all described in their documentation.

    Should they set it up differently? Should people not use this free service? Do you think they created different expectations in the minds of consumers — such that there is deception? What if they “answer” by quoting their ToS?

    Bruuuuce (533ab8)

  18. Google needs to be the first company put out of business if we ever take back the power from the commies who are in charge today. A conservative owned company would never have been allowed to become so huge and influential. If conservatives pooled their money and bought google, the Democrats would shut it down immediately.

    It’s time we all get our minds wrapped around the fact that the internet world is bigger than the brick and mortar world, and we have always busted up companies that become so huge and monopolistic. There is even more urgency in regards to breaking up google because it is speech that they have taken complete control over.

    j curtis (60320c)

  19. “You don’t think whether the guy is an employee is even relevant to the question of Google’s responsibility for his statements or actions? Seriously?”

    I am not a lawyer, so when I say this I do not mean it in the legal sense.

    I mean it in the sense that customers– even if they are non-paying customers– should be reconsidering their relationship with Google because of the actions of unpaid volunteers working for (as opposed to employed by) them so that Google can avoid hiring a sufficiently staffed and trained customer support team.

    I don’t think that if he is paid by Google or not is really relevant to that question. I can see how it could matter in conjunction with their TOS for legal matter, however.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  20. “Admin privileges” mean different things in different contexts and with different settings in different software packages. I agree that the anecdotal report of EnigmatiCore’s Google account being flagged somehow raises troubling issues. They’re not unique at all to “nitecruzr,” or Prof. Althouse, or even Blogger though. And to reach firm conclusions regarding such account impairments (especially across platforms/functions), I frankly would want more info than just EnigmatiCore’s report. If you find out more details about that, I’ll be an appreciative reader for that post.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  21. I had not read Beldar’s quotation of the terms of service. I just did. (I don’t always read every comment on every thread, but enough reference was made to these that I went back and found them).

    It is interesting how the terms of service contradict the “contacting us” and “write us” links that take you straight to the forums where they disclaim responsibility. Just so we’re all on the same page, I encourage everyone who is taking issue with me here to do the following, if you have not already. Click the link available in this post, where I have all the screenshots that show where someone like Althouse would go when confronted with a situation like this.

    If you read that carefully, and put yourself in the shoes of a blogger who has had their blog deleted and wants help, you’ll see (I think) why the way that Google directs bloggers to the forums as being the one way to get help from Google — and moreover represents the forums as “us” — would lead the blogger to think they were talking to Google directly.

    It’s like if I had something on the sidebar saying “complaints about the blog? Write us here” with a link to a forum where Stashiu says “we” will try to help you with the problems you are having with “our” blog — and then somewhere I have a terms of service link that says I disclaim all responsibility for whatever Stashiu says.

    Well, then: why did I include a link to a forum I set up for him, and gave him moderation powers at, under a link that says “write US here”???

    Patterico (c218bd)

  22. People need to address the issue that Google says you are writing “us” when they send you to those forums.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  23. I mean, I made the point about how Google called the forum “us” 2-3 times in this post, in bold every time. So you can tell I think it’s kind of an important point.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  24. Put another way: imagine you’re a blogger and Google just took away your blog. Now, you need to contact Google to tell them there’s a problem.

    Tell me what you would do. Go.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  25. @ j curtis

    It’s probably important for folks to figure out if google is allowing conservatives to be denied service, or obstructed from participating.

    But only as a way of informing their decision in the free market of blog hosting. There are other options. Prof. Althouse bet on a giant impersonal corporation, rather than running her own servers, despite its fickle TOS.

    Her bad.

    If ya’ll want to out-compete google in the market, you should probably get to it. They’ve got a big head start.

    eli (feea19)

  26. @ Patterico

    Google cannot take away my blog. I use a more responsive hosting service. If they took away my blog, I would use a different one.

    I’m not a conservative, but that much of the free market I understand.

    eli (feea19)

  27. I posted a link in another thread on this topic showing that Nitcruzer has acted like this months ago. And in that thread, the person complaining about deleted blogs indicated that Nitcruzer has been acting like this in many other cases.

    So that’s another important point. It’s not just that Google was sloppy and that blew up once. It’s that Google let this guy represent Google even after he repeatedly was a jerk.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  28. When Nitcruzer wrote Althouse back, didn’t google email those comments to Althouse as coming from “Google Help”?

    I’m very interested in the material Google provides people like Nitcruzer. My guess is that they do explain that these people represent the company.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  29. You don’t think whether the guy is an employee is even relevant to the question of Google’s responsibility for his statements or actions? Seriously?

    That’s not what I’m saying. When I say I don’t think it’s “the” relevant point I mean to say it’s not the critical issue. Go back and read what I read. I didn’t say it wasn’t relevant, but that it wasn’t “the” relevant point. It would perhaps have been better to say “central” instead of “relevant” so that people who overlooked the word “the” would not interpret my statement as saying employment is irrelevant.

    The point is, if Google says contact “us” and sends you to a forum where they allow a person to escalate some complaints, delete others, temporarily disable people’s Google accounts, and call himself “we” as if he is aligned with Google, it is not critical to me whether they are paying that person. The point is, how would the public view that person? As a random third party? As someone with very limited powers as to whom Google disclaims all responsibility? Or, as I argue, as a representative of Google.

    Meaning Google is “on the hook” — meaning, for me, that when that representative screws up, it is fair to attribute that screw-up to Google. If an apology is owed, Google owes it.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  30. While we’re all reading things, here is the first listed term and condition from Google’s Blogger Terms of Service [emphasis supplied]:

    1. Description of Service. Blogger is a web publishing service and optional hosting service (the “Service”). You will be responsible for all activities occurring under your username and for keeping your password secure. You understand and agree that the Service is provided to you on an AS IS and AS AVAILABLE basis. Google disclaims all responsibility and liability for the availability, timeliness, security or reliability of the Service or any other client software. Google also reserves the right to modify, suspend or discontinue the Service with or without notice at any time and without any liability to you.

    However, I agree it would be a good idea for Google to apologize on the theory the customer is *usually* right.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  31. Patterico: The Terms of Service, for those who bother to read them, advise that Google uses non-employee volunteers and that they have some sort of administrative powers. You keep acting like that counts for nothing because not everyone will bother to read it. We both know that legally, they still matter.

    The “us” was literally correct, since “us” in that context certainly includes Google customer service employees, like “Brett” — the guy who eventually gave Prof. Althouse a responsive answer. His post showed clear signs that he was not a volunteer, but rather an employee. Anyone who compares his “signature” to the one for “nitecruzr,” for example, would be entirely reasonable in attributing what Brett said and did to Google: He’s a Google employee acting within the course and scope of his employment, and certainly he’s been cloaked by Google (when it permitted him to have a signature that read “Brett from blogger, Google Employee, The Blogger Team.”

    I do not think it is nearly so reasonable to automatically impute to Google everything said or done by “nitecruzr, Top Contributor, Blog*Star.” His signature suggests a more limited affiliation with less implication of authority. Reading the Terms of Service would further tend to inform someone in Prof. Althouse’s position that nitecruzr might have important limitations in his knowledge and authority.

    Should Google be more thorough? Should they hang a footnote to that “write us” link which says, “This goes to a forum where volunteers who aren’t Google employees or agents nevertheless have important admin privileges”? Maybe. In hindsight that seems like it would be useful, but without hindsight, it would look like clutter — over-lawyering the interface.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  32. “I frankly would want more info than just EnigmatiCore’s report”

    I would like this, too. All I can speak to is what happened with me (and that I saw at least one other person saying the same thing, elsewhere– something I cannot prove with a link right now but am hoping someone else will).

    Is it possible that my account being flagged for “unusual activity” was completely unrelated? The logician in me says absolutely. The timing is awfully suspicious, though. Especially when I had seen (within an hour of my experience) at least one other person complaining about the same things happening to them.

    I wish I was finding a decent way of searching my cache to find where I saw the other things I am asserting in these comments. I’d rather it not just be my word(s).

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  33. I guess I’m missing something. Why the heck is there a “non-employee volunteer” providing support for Google’s crap?

    SPQR (26be8b)

  34. Beldar,

    as a litigator, I think you understand the concept of estoppel. Because of the actions Google took to furnish nitecruzr with authority in the eyes of reasonable 3rd parties, Google is responsible for nitecruzr’s misconduct.

    Brian (b7286d)

  35. DRJ,

    That’s a good reason not to use it.

    Of course, most giant companies have hugely burdensome terms of service that nobody reads and that nobody expects them to actually enforce as written. Now, does that mean that they are not enforceable? Of course not. They most certainly are. If Althouse agreed with those terms of service, she would have no lawsuit, in my opinion.

    But we’re not talking lawsuit here. We’re talking corporate behavior, and how a company wishes to be perceived.

    And you know what? If every company with burdensome terms of service randomly goes around enforcing them because they can — if, for example, Google goes around randomly deleting the Eschatons and Althouses of the world — they may be totally within their rights, but they are also going to be the targets of withering criticism such as I am delivering here.

    That’s part of the marketplace too, right?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  36. EnigmatiCore,

    Can you tell us precisely what you were told when your account was flagged? Did you get an e-mail? If so, what did it say? What were you prevented from doing without providing your telephone number? Etc.

    It’s my impression that you were unable to leave a comment at a Blogger site? Did you lose Gmail privileges? Reader account? Do you know?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  37. Should Google be more thorough? Should they hang a footnote to that “write us” link which says, “This goes to a forum where volunteers who aren’t Google employees or agents nevertheless have important admin privileges”? Maybe. In hindsight that seems like it would be useful, but without hindsight, it would look like clutter — over-lawyering the interface.

    Maybe they just shouldn’t say “us” if they don’t mean “us.”

    Patterico (c218bd)

  38. Hypo question: Google hires you, Patterico, as a consultant. They say to you:

    We’ve had problems with our volunteers who do most of the grunt work on our Blogger Help Forum. Some of them are overstating their authority or implying that they have more authority than they really do; some may have mis-used their admin privileges.

    We’ve run some tests and surveys, and we’re confident now that we can abandon those volunteers and go to a customer service model that relies only on paid full-time Google employees. So we’re going to do away with our “guides” or “Blog*Stars” and their admin privileges.

    The only problem is we’ll have to charge every blogger $25/month in order to still offer Blogger without losing money on a regular basis.

    What should we do, Patterico?

    I hope you’d tell them what I’d tell, them, which is this:

    Don’t do away with your current customer service model. Keep your volunteers, keep Blogger free to all users. But do a better job of conspicuously disclosing the risks associated with your use of such volunteers with admin privileges, especially if by commenting on this forum, a Google use can jeopardize other functions (like calendar or email) associated with that account. And if you decide that disclosing the true risks would be too much of a buzz-kill and would discourage too many customers, then change the risks (e.g., by keeping the volunteers but restricting or tightly overseeing their ability to do more than any traditional “forum administration” might be able to do.

    No?

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  39. Innocent illegals is an oxymoron like using the words google and genius in the same sentence.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  40. Still waiting for Beldar to tell me what someone is supposed to do when their Google blog is deleted. Althouse did exactly what I should have done.

    Perhaps the answer is “use Typepad.” Coupled with a comment about how Typepad costs money and Blogger is free.

    Be careful if that is the response you are contemplating. Have you checked Typepad’s TOS lately? They say this:

    TypePad reserves the right to change, suspend or discontinue part or all of any version of the TypePad Service at any time, for any reason, without notice and without explanation.

    I know you pay for it, but what? like $9.95 a month? Compared to my $150 that’s virtually free.

    So if Typepad flushes your blog, which they have the right to do, and says “write us” with a link to a forum where a non-employee pisses on your head, will you be ready when I waltz in and tell you that you get what you pay for and that they had the right to do that — and hey, they “disclaim responsibility” for what the non-employee does, at a link that says “write us”?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  41. “I agree that the anecdotal report of EnigmatiCore’s Google account being flagged somehow raises troubling issues. ”

    Anyone can flag things like blogger blogs and youtube videos. Have you checked whether anyone can flag google profiles?

    “I guess I’m missing something. Why the heck is there a “non-employee volunteer” providing support for Google’s crap?”

    To lower their costs, helping to improve their profits on a free service.

    “That’s part of the marketplace too, right?”

    Let’s all keep on funding google by reading Althouse’s blog.

    Bruuuce (9e2e68)

  42. Let’s all keep funding stupidity by reading your posts.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  43. My first piece of advice to Google, Beldar, would be not to say “write us” and then put a link to a forum run by someone for whom we take no responsibility.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  44. Brian (#34), I know about estoppel and its elements, which include a change in position in reasonable reliance on a material representation of fact. Google has represented that its volunteers act without Google’s authority. That makes it unreasonable as a matter of law for someone to have relied on any inferences arising from nitecruzr’s apparent authority. And once again, apparent authority cannot come from the alleged agent’s own assertions or actions; apparent authority can only be conferred by actions or statements of the principal itself. Here, it’s made an express statement on point, one which contradicts any inference of apparent authority.

    So no, estoppel won’t win Prof. Althouse’s hypothetical lawsuit against Google, either.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  45. Bruuuce, what kind of person thinks its worthwhile to spend hours of their time for free helping the customers of a multi-billion dollar company like Google?

    SPQR (26be8b)

  46. Anyone can flag things like blogger blogs and youtube videos. Have you checked whether anyone can flag google profiles?

    Nope. If they can, that’s a separate concern then, isn’t it?

    And what the flag MEANS is controlled by Google.

    If Google has it set up so any random cretin can “flag” my account and force me to give Google a phone number to re-activate it, that’s a problem. If that power is reserved for special people like nitecruzr, then that’s another separate problem, isn’t it?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  47. Brian (#34), I know about estoppel and its elements, which include a change in position in reasonable reliance on a material representation of fact. Google has represented that its volunteers act without Google’s authority. That makes it unreasonable as a matter of law for someone to have relied on any inferences arising from nitecruzr’s apparent authority. And once again, apparent authority cannot come from the alleged agent’s own assertions or actions; apparent authority can only be conferred by actions or statements of the principal itself. Here, it’s made an express statement on point, one which contradicts any inference of apparent authority.

    If you’re going to keep cheerfully ignoring the “us” component of the “write us” link, then I might have to take up your “strawman” complaint.

    Any argument you make relying on Google’s TOS or disclaimers of responsibility needs to take account of the “us” part of that link, or the argument is totally unpersuasive.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  48. And simply to acknowledge that point doesn’t cut it, if you then repeatedly make your argument as if that point doesn’t exist.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  49. Patterico: You didn’t quote the whole of TypePad’s Terms of Services, nor apparently are you familiar with its backup opportunities. I don’t think TypePad has either the legal or practical opportunity to “flush” my blog, which is one reason why I am willing to pay them for their services.

    As for me telling you or anyone else “what someone is supposed to do when their Google blog is deleted,” I haven’t tried to do that, nor would I. I think I’ve made clear that I think Blogger was a poor choice for a high-volume often-controversial blog. But I don’t know what back-up they make available, whether it can be automated, or whatnot.

    I certainly haven’t criticized Prof. Althouse for following the “write us” link to that forum. Nor have I argued that nitecruzr’s interaction with her was appropriate. So why do you continue to attribute positions to me that I haven’t taken? I know it annoys you when folks do that to you.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  50. I’m about to update the post with this e-mail I just received from a second person whose account was flagged:

    Hi Patterico,

    I’m the evil genius behind the “Dead Dog Bounce” comment on the Althouse thread. If possible, I’d prefer that my real name were kept out of general circulation.

    I signed up to comment on the Althouse thread. When I went to access my mail today, for the first time since September 2004 when I opened my gmail account, I had to provide a cellphone number to verify my account.

    I’ve used gmail as my primary email address since 2004. I’ve got a blog (collecting tumbleweed) on Blogger. it occurs to me that I need to start thinking, at the very least about disaster planning in case Google takes a dislike to me. I’m
    genuinely scared of them now.

    Thanks for highlighting this issue. Google are of a size and reach now that Microsoft can only dream of. Anyone with a gmail account is essentially trusting their identity to a company that makes a selling point of not having any point of
    contact. Only stupid people ignore threats like that.

    Wow.

    That’s two examples. I wonder how many more will trickle in.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  51. Even if what Google did/allowed was legal, it’s scummy and contemptuous. It’s certainly a lesson I’m going to heed. Google can’t be trusted.

    WordPress provides free and paid blogs, and without a trace of Google’s arrogance. Check it out.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (1a5eb3)

  52. “Bruuuce, what kind of person thinks its worthwhile to spend hours of their time for free helping the customers of a multi-billion dollar company like Google?”

    A blogger nerd.

    “Nope. If they can, that’s a separate concern then, isn’t it?”

    Could be. You mentioned the flagging in your post, but it may not be something that special.

    Bruuuuce (e035aa)

  53. “Bwuuuuuce” is kind of a dick, in general. If I were “google” nitecrzr would not be acting on our behalf any longer. And it would have happened before this incident. Google says “contact us” and you get linked to nitecruzr. Where lese in the world do you hit a contact us link and get sent to somebody “not-us”?

    JD (29e1cd)

  54. Could be. You mentioned the flagging in your post, but it may not be something that special.

    Huh. You criticize the Google support dude, and now you can’t access your Gmail unless you give Google your cell phone number — and this doesn’t seem like a problem to you?

    OK then.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  55. Enigmatic Core- I can vouch that I, too, saw someone else last night say their account had been flagged. I saw one person say it, and another say yes, the same had just happened to him.

    MayBee (081489)

  56. Patrick,

    You seem to be conflating a legal argument (nitecruzr is “us”) with a customer service/good will/marketing issue. I don’t see a legal liability issue given the Google Blogger Terms of Service, which means at most this is a customer service issue. I think Google would be wise to try to smooth the waters but I also think it would be foolish to do so in a way that implies a duty or liability that is expressly denied in its Terms of Service. Your posts and comments seem to blur that distinction.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  57. Patterico (#47), I’ve tried to point out that the “us” in the “write us” link was literally true.

    Did the person or persons who wrote the text accompanying that hyperlink intend that the “us” mean “only us full-time paid Google customer service employees”? That’s one potential interpretation — and it’s the one you’ve chosen to apply — but I don’t think that’s the most reasonable interpretation, given that the forum obviously contains a lot of Q&A solely among users and volunteers. You have to deliberately ignore that context to continue thinking that “us” means “only us full-time Google employees.”

    The more reasonable interpretation is that Google intended the “write us” to mean (consistently with the Terms of Service) “us full-time paid Google customer service employees plus the volunteer users who help make up our user community.”

    If anyone’s misled, it’s mostly because they weren’t paying close attention. But could Google more effectively communicate the scope of its volunteers’ responsibilities and admin powers? Certainly — else we wouldn’t be having this discussion!

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  58. Well well well

    Sure looks as though nitecruzr is still representing Google today, which is after we know, for a fact, that a Google employee, electrobutter Brett, reviewed his awful behavior, and hundreds of google users complained about him in one way or another.

    You’d think Google would care more about their customer service.

    Also, Google marked nitcruzer as an “Official Blog*Star”. I noticed as I look into that term on their forums, “top contributors” refer to Blog*Stars as though they are official representatives of Google with the power to actually resolve problems.

    Sadly, the only thread asking for a clear cut definition was answered by nitcruizer himself. In fact, he’s a ubiquitous feature in these help forums, and he’s general an ass. Someone mentions problem A, and nitecruzer obnoxiously dismisses the concern with three links to his blog on unrelated problem B, while noting it’s not Google’s fault (in that case it seemed to be).

    Here, someone asks nitecruzer twice if he represents Google. He gets ignored on that part, and criticized for comprehension problems, and told to read nitecruzer’s special guidelines on some irrelevant problem (the complained had already noted he’s leaving blogger entirely, so who had the comprehension problem?). This rudeness was one year ago, btw. Plenty of time to get Nitecruzer under control or terminate his special privileges.

    Clearly, part of the problem is that Google has people represent them while disclaiming that representation in the fine print. And part of the problem is that when Google is aware one of their representatives abuses his powers, they don’t care.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  59. Patterico: You didn’t quote the whole of TypePad’s Terms of Services, nor apparently are you familiar with its backup opportunities. I don’t think TypePad has either the legal or practical opportunity to “flush” my blog, which is one reason why I am willing to pay them for their services.

    As for me telling you or anyone else “what someone is supposed to do when their Google blog is deleted,” I haven’t tried to do that, nor would I. I think I’ve made clear that I think Blogger was a poor choice for a high-volume often-controversial blog. But I don’t know what back-up they make available, whether it can be automated, or whatnot.

    I certainly haven’t criticized Prof. Althouse for following the “write us” link to that forum. Nor have I argued that nitecruzr’s interaction with her was appropriate. So why do you continue to attribute positions to me that I haven’t taken? I know it annoys you when folks do that to you.

    Typepad does not have any obligation to keep your blog up. They can flush it at any time, without notice. If you’re relying on them for your backup, they can do that too, as far as I can tell. Here is the link for the TOS.

    I don’t know what position you say I attribute to you that you haven’t taken. What I do attribute to you is a repeated assertion that we should be impressed with the fact that Google “disclaims responsibility” for the actions of forum folks like nitecruzr. I find that claim supremely unpersuasive given that a) anyone seeking to contact Google over such an issue would do exactly what Althouse did, and b) when Google says “write us” the link takes you to this forum.

    So, for you to repeatedly tout the significance of the responsiblity disclaimer, without addressing the fact that your argument is undercut by the “write US” link, together with the fact that there is no alternative I can see for actually contacting Google, renders your argument devoid of persuasive value for me. If you’re not taking on the tough points, you’re not converting me to your point of view.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  60. More than Google smoothing the waters, I think it’s important to see what this huge, politically involved company is willing to subject users to, and how little control they have over the whims of their representatives.

    Does this make people feel trusting about putting their own information on their Cloud? It seems one wouldn’t only have to worry about hackers, but about also people Google itself trusts with power over your information/account.

    MayBee (081489)

  61. Where lese in the world do you hit a contact us link and get sent to somebody “not-us”?

    A number of forums are staffed by non-employee volunteers with admin privileges. Some that I’ve been to in the past include college discussion boards and vet/pet forums.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  62. You seem to be conflating a legal argument (nitecruzr is “us”) with a customer service/good will/marketing issue.

    I’m not sure where you get that impression. I have nowhere made a legal argument. For me, this is purely a customer service/good will/marketing issue.

    The point of “us” is that Google is holding out these forums as “us.” So when someone running the forums is a jerk, it reflects badly on Google.

    And rather than this being simply some random guy on the Internet being rude, it is someone being rude whom Google has given certain authortity, behind a link that says “us.”

    Patterico (c218bd)

  63. e. I think Google would be wise to try to smooth the waters but I also think it would be foolish to do so in a way that implies a duty or liability that is expressly denied in its Terms of Service.

    I suppose that makes sense, but I don’t care about that. I care about being able to rely on my gmail or other google services, and clearly I cannot.

    We know a google employee saw this guy deleting comments and being a jerk, using privileges granted him by google (along with a title including the word “Official”). That should have raised some questions about what other actions nitecruzer was taking, such as the phone number demand actions.

    Sure, Google has completely disclaimed responsibility for the people Google empowered to represent them. They have disclaimed any responsibility, despite Brett seeing this thread and nitecruzer remaining “Official” today, able to delete whatever he wants, and often the first responder to any important complaints.

    You shouldn’t be able to get out of trouble just because you disclaimed your own behavior. This IS google’s behavior, ultimately.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  64. “You criticize the Google support dude, and now you can’t access your Gmail unless you give Google your cell phone number — and this doesn’t seem like a problem to you?”

    My guess is he flagged anyone that posted a comment that was not about resolving the blogger issue. But I think anyone can flag.

    Bruuuuce (280b35)

  65. I wonder if Don’t Be Evil doesn’t really apply to google because they were just talking about “us” meaning not Google.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  66. How different is this thread from “Ann Althouse got the wrong drink at Starbucks”?

    eli (feea19)

  67. eli, well to you, there is no difference. To those of us who enjoy Ann’s work …

    SPQR (26be8b)

  68. Patterico:

    I have nowhere made a legal argument. For me, this is purely a customer service/good will/marketing issue.

    I read this statement from your post as wanting to hold Google responsible in every sense:

    “This is not a “nitecruzr issue,” folks. It’s a Google issue. Google needs to step up and take responsibility for what it did to Althouse.”

    My mistake.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  69. Sure can. I’ll fill in details when I get finished with dinner.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  70. Did the person or persons who wrote the text accompanying that hyperlink intend that the “us” mean “only us full-time paid Google customer service employees”? That’s one potential interpretation — and it’s the one you’ve chosen to apply — but I don’t think that’s the most reasonable interpretation, given that the forum obviously contains a lot of Q&A solely among users and volunteers. You have to deliberately ignore that context to continue thinking that “us” means “only us full-time Google employees.”

    The fact that other things may be happening on the forum doesn’t matter to someone who followed all the links because their blog disappeared, saw something that said “write us,” and was taken to that forum. They don’t care that the forum may have Q&A among users and volunteers. They know only that this is where Google has told them to go to contact Google (“us”) regarding their deleted blog.

    And if you are a Gmail user and you don’t like what someone says at the “write us” link, you may have to give Google your cell phone number to reactivate your Gmail.

    Look, I’m a Gmail user. But like my correspondent above, this is making me rethink that decision. I find this whole episode very troubling. As I said, what made an impression on me is that a very smart friend recommended Blogspot as an alternative for my outages. That is now off the table for me, and I bet for many others — and I’m wondering about an alternative for my Gmail account.

    If I am having these thoughts, I bet others are too.

    Which means Google has a problem. And pretending nitecruzr has no connection to them is not the way to deal with that problem.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  71. Bruuuuuuuuuuce is a self-centered prick.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  72. Bruuuuuuuuuuce is a self-centered prick.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  73. DRJ,

    I meant responsibility from a goodwill standpoint, not a legal one.

    I meant they should say: yes, we put nitecruzr in that position, and we should not have, and we are sorry, and we will take better steps to communicate with our users.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  74. They should rename those links “contact not-us”.

    JD (b98cae)

  75. Dustin,

    I left a comment at that thread where nitzcruzr is still around, essentially daring him to flag my account like he did to others’.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  76. Dustin, “Official Blog*Star” isn’t the same as “Official from Google” or “Official Recognized by Google” or whatever else you seem to be re-interpreting it to mean.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  77. Beldar,

    What is a customer supposed to think when they click a “write us” link on a company’s Web site?

    You really have not confronted this very simple question.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  78. Beldar,

    1) “Write us,” unpacked, means to a reasonable person “write to person(s) acting as agents of Google.” Who else can “us” be?

    2) OK, I accept that on Blogger there’s a link to TOS, which tells the reader that they use non-employee twerps like nitecruzr as the 1st-line of defense in customer service.

    3) So we have 2 statements from Google, contradictory, and if one statement is to be privileged, it should be “write us,” because:

    a) It would be read later than the TOS, and

    b) It’s specific to the inquiry of the customer who is having a problem.

    c) Plus, Google furnished nitecruzr with the authority to do agent/employee-like functions, e.g., escalate complaints. I’m talking about Google’s conduct, not nitecruzr’s claims. It was additionally Google’s conduct that landed Althouse on nitecruzr’s thread, when she was directed to complain to “us,” i.e., to Google.

    So I think an estoppel-type argument has legs.

    Brian (b7286d)

  79. Whoops – my c) should be 4).

    Brian (b7286d)

  80. Dustin, “Official Blog*Star” isn’t the same as “Official from Google” or “Official Recognized by Google” or whatever else you seem to be re-interpreting it to mean.

    Comment by Beldar — 5/14/2011 @ 4:50 pm

    True. In fact, Google specifically disclaimed everything in the threads anyway.

    But there is a distinction between a top contributor and “Official Blog*Star”. The threads show that people try to get google’s help by asking these Official guys.

    And, again, they have the power to abuse comment deletions and other admin functions, and when a Google Employee saw that, they did nothing, leaving Nitecruzer marked as “Official Blog Star” and apparent to their help forums as selected by Google for help.

    And isn’t that what you think, too? Don’t you agree that Google picked Nitecruzer for this function? That seems pretty clear to me.

    I’m not worrying about the legal consequences. I’m just noting that Google knows this what you face when you need help from Google. They made it that way.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  81. I agree with everything Brian said, except that I see it as a goodwill issue and not a legal issue. But other than that I think he and I are completely on the same page.

    The fact that Google CONTINUES to allow this guy to represent them, as Dustin notes, is incredible — and worth another update.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  82. How different is this thread from “Ann Althouse got the wrong drink at Starbucks”?

    Comment by eli — 5/14/2011 @ 4:40 pm

    It kinda is, if she was buying drinks for thousands of people who expected to get them, and got treated like crap when Starbucks screwed up. And if many of us rely on Starbucks for email and other stuff.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  83. It kinda is, if she was buying drinks for thousands of people who expected to get them, and got treated like crap when Starbucks screwed up. And if many of us rely on Starbucks for email and other stuff.

    And if she said to the clerk who gave her the wrong drinks, “I need to speak to someone at Starbucks who can help me with this!”, and the clerk introduced her to someone, who turned out to not work for Starbucks, not help Althouse, insult anybody who gathered to watch her as she got frustrated, and then cancelled the gift cards of anybody who commented in support of her.

    It’s like that.

    MayBee (081489)

  84. But I think anyone can flag.

    How can I flag someone’s account,nowhere it will make them provide their phone number to access their account?

    JD (395555)

  85. Call me crazy, but when I see this:

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/

    I think I’m at the google support forum.

    When I’m at the apple support forum, it’s real live apple people answering, with special links and ID that you know it’s them. Regular, non-apple people also chime in, but you can tell the difference. I have always gotten good help from apple.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  86. carlitos,

    But there is some Terms of Service somewhere that disclaims liability for everything under the sun, so that apparently trumps your reasonable belief. Or something.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  87. And if the Starbuck’s non-employee named himself after Al Pacino’s homo-erotic thriller, it would be exactly like that.

    Brian (b7286d)

  88. @ SPQR @ Dustin

    Blogger’s sterling reputation for system stability vanished long ago. I took the original outrage to be inked to her hasty sense of persecution.

    But it seems much ado… it sounds like you want Ann to make a better choice in the market. Fair enough. The pervasive victimization just sounds weird in the context of a community of free marketeers.

    I enjoy Althouse occasionally. In a different way, I’m certain… but still. Atrios went down too. Difference? He didn’t assume (more fair to say ‘suspect’ probably) it was a plot against him.

    If the point is, “we should stick together and avoid google”… I get that. But that doesn’t account for a lot of this prose. So many words (granted, I find them all fascinating, and appreciate ya’ll being here to read) for a very simple situation:
    a. sue
    b. switch to wordpress (or similar)
    c. take it
    There’s no real case for A (and if there was, Prof Althouse is well positioned to defend her rights), and C is obviously not inviting… so…

    eli (feea19)

  89. I think the recursive nature of nitcruzr is insidious. He writes bad cold-war prose, posts it on his blog, and them spams links to it in the google support forum in response to blogs being flagged as spam. The guy is like Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder.

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/blogger/thread?tid=182b6516fbdda408&hl=en

    carlitos (1596cc)

  90. On a more important note, Starbucks quietly changed their “free refill on drip coffee if you have a registered Starbucks card” program so that you only get it if you stay in the store. Bummer.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  91. What is a customer supposed to think when they click a “write us” link on a company’s Web site?

    You really have not confronted this very simple question.

    I believe I have. I believe I’ve “confronted” two different potential interpretations to resolve who “us” refers to in that link. A customer might think “us” was meant to refer only to paid customer service employees who act and speak for Google. I’ve also explained why I think that is a less reasonable interpretation than “us Google employees and our user community,” especially when confronted with the context of what’s in the forum.

    Why do you keep saying I’m not “confronting” this? I can’t see any other ways to confront this, nor anything else useful to say about that link, but I’ve certainly said quite a bit about it. If you disagree with something I’ve said, I’ll be glad to revisit that specific language.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  92. eli,

    If a company mistreats someone, one can both a) argue it’s unfair and b) suggest that they switch to a different company.

    Althouse’s blog deletion was not the same as the other outages. It was marked as spam. I think you need to do a little more reading to get up to speed. The links are in the post. Scroll up and click.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  93. @ MayBea

    The difference with gift cards is that they were presumably purchased with some money.

    Otherwise, I guess that all makes sense… excpet exveryone seems to agree that the solution is simple… making the victimology (my perverse interest in the issue) the only remaining variable (other than the ones I’m just missing— hence my participation).

    eli (feea19)

  94. eli, well I don’t find that your snark convinces me of her victimhood.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  95. Carlitos wrote (#85):

    Call me crazy, but when I see this:

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/

    I think I’m at the google support forum.

    I too would think that.

    Why would you also think that only Google employees may offer advice there?

    Why would you also think that someone whose using the moniker “nitecruzr” and whose forum signature says “Top Contributor, Official Blog*Star” was a Google employee authorized to speak and act for the company, as opposed to, say, a blog (a/k/a forum) contributor?

    Would you have continued thinking that, even after seeing only the post started by Prof. Althouse? Even after seeing the very different forum signature for the comment added by “Brett from blogger, Google Employee, The Blogger Team”?

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  96. eli,

    Althouse had years of work wiped out, and she hasn’t threatened to sue; it appears to be that she’s working on the assumption that publicity is the best way for her to get her work back.

    So what’s the alternative to “playing the victim”? Practice the virtue of stoicism and watch her output go down the tubes?

    Althouse is bitching for reason.

    eli is bitching as an end in itself.

    Brian (b7286d)

  97. @ Patterico

    I clicked through the above links (I appreciate your explaining how), and missed the evidence for your assertion. I trust you that the evidence exists… I come here occasionally b/c you seem sharp and honest. I will look around on my own, for more context (are you going to recommend the googles?).

    My point is more that if B. is so obvious, I’m having trouble understanding the histrionics about A. As if fairness matters in a market for some transcendental reason.

    eli (feea19)

  98. Beldar,

    I responded to those points at 70. You’re right: it was wrong of me to say you haven’t confronted the argument in general. What I should have said is that you haven’t really confronted the more specific argument I made in comment 70. Which is not just that they said “write us” (the part you did respond to), but also other points I made regarding how people get through to Google (the separate page I linked) and the fact that people trying to get help are not going to focus on what other discussions may be going on in the forum, but rather will focus on the fact that they were told to “write us.”

    I think you overestimate people’s ability to scour the Internet for details that might have some relevance to their interpretation. I say when someone clicks on “write us” that they think they are writing the company. You seem to think they should also scour the forum and read posts to interpret the nature of the forum and whether those providing answers are actually official representatives, and go looking for some lengthy TOS document to see what it says.

    This reminds me of the debate over laws and legislative intent. Those who favor intent over textualism love to tell me that most legislative speeches and such are available on the Internet and CSPAN, and if the law is unclear but legislators have spoken to the issue in entries to the Congressional Record, informed citizens are responsible for being knowledgeable about all that.

    I think that’s ridiculous. People don’t have time for that. They read the law and should be able to interpret a plain statement (like “write us”) for what it means, without being required to consult secondary sources all over the world for possible contrary interpretations. That is why I am a textualist, and that is why “write us” should mean that the customer gets to reasonably conclude they are writing the company.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  99. But when Beldar sees “write us,” he’s the only person in the universe who sees:

    “write us [us incorporates by reference the Google/Blogger Terms of Service, which in part 4, subdivision 7 specifies that customer service may be conducted by...etc]“

    Brian (b7286d)

  100. Why would you also think that someone whose using the moniker “nitecruzr” and whose forum signature says “Top Contributor, Official Blog*Star” was a Google employee authorized to speak and act for the company, as opposed to, say, a blog (a/k/a forum) contributor?

    Because . . . they followed a link that said “write us”???

    This is what I mean. You may have made an argument that addresses that point. But then you go on to make other arguments that act as though that argument doesn’t exist.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  101. Brian,

    You said that far more succinctly than I did. But yes, that’s it.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  102. @Beldar

    Ah, I did not see “Brett the Google employee” as I hadn’t followed every link here. That’s a good thing, but a homoerotic recursive dude still shouldn’t have the right to flag your google account in response to a forum disagreement.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  103. Brian,

    I was mostly asking questions… not really bitching.

    I get that I’m a guest here. I clearly have views that I’m trying to get more data on, and they are likely not views you share, but I’ve tried to be respectful.

    If Ann went without backups, that’s just stunning. If Blogger doesn’t have that ability (I’d never use the trashy service and so just don’t know), then again: her bad.

    As a call to arms to avoid blogger, this is all well and good. And I agreed in advance for other reasons. I’m trying to figure out how much fairness free market advocates expect in the market and on what grounds.

    eli (feea19)

  104. eli,

    Discussion of the deletion of her blog as spam is the very firsty thing you see if you go to my link where the whole support thread is set forth.

    Which, if you read my post, wouldn’t that be the first place you would go?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  105. I’m trying to figure out how much fairness free market advocates expect in the market and on what grounds.

    Most human interaction assumes basic reasonableness. Of course, we don’t always get that, which is why we have courts and a marketplace with alternatives, etc. Still, we approach most interactions hoping for reasonableness (while protecting ourselves against a reasonable possibility that it won’t happen).

    If a company is unreasonable, guess what? People criticize it. They point it out. They argue that the company has been unfair.

    To say all such talk is wrong and whining, and just evidence of a bad market decision, is catnip for the Ayn Rand libertarian types. But for most of us, we feel we get to combine the right to criticize with the right to seek alternatives.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  106. If Ann went without backups, that’s just stunning. If Blogger doesn’t have that ability (I’d never use the trashy service and so just don’t know), then again: her bad.

    She kept a backup, though apparently it’s not as recent as she wishes it was.

    You didn’t read the thread linked?

    Dustin (c16eca)

  107. Also, return address on the emails by nitecruzr was “Google Help” – bit of a problem there, eh?

    carlitos (1596cc)

  108. Eli is quick to throw the playing the victim card, a recurrent theme amongst the leftists recently.

    JD (395555)

  109. Dustin,

    No, eli did not read the thread linked. That’s why he still maintains that Althouse’s blog was simply gone with all the other ones, with no different explanation offered.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  110. eli strikes me more as a radical libertarian, JD. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  111. @ Patterico

    I read it. That was my polite way of saying it doesn’t support your assertion.

    Why did the rest of the blogs go down? Was it a systemwide error in spam marking or filtering?

    I have no idea. And if that’s your evidence, neither do you.

    eli (feea19)

  112. I’m a liberal. But not usually crazy or anything… and lean small govt on social issues. But hopefully I can be rational about this.

    I just don’t see any evidence that she was singled out BEFORE the customer service controversy.

    eli (feea19)

  113. eli, you said you have no idea if Althouse backed up her blog, or if it was possible, but you also say you read the thread where she talks about doing that.

    I also seem to recall Google’s Official Blog Star explaining that he was referring Althouse’s blog for appeal from being removed as spam, and that this appeal was final, and that Althouse should read the following spam guidelines to understand why her blog was removed.

    I get it, though. You’re pretending Nitecruzer’s comments can simply be ignored altogether.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  114. I should add… I also don’t see evidence that the nature of the error was different in her case.

    eli (feea19)

  115. Dustin, snark aside, there’s a bigger business context for these Terms of Use and similar boilerplate that goes beyond just avoiding legal claims by angry users.

    The whole “user community” concept, and the legal rights and liabilities that attend it, are relatively new and still evolving. Some of you may recall reading about wage & hour litigation brought by the Department of Labor against the makers of one of the first massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, “Ultima Online.” The company had chosen to rely heavily on volunteer “guides” who had special software powers to assist other customers in-game and in offline internet forums. The feds said, “You regulate what these people do, you control and monitor the manner of their performance, you get a benefit to the company from their labor, and you give them free accounts to compensate them. Therefore we (the feds) say they’re not really ‘volunteers,’ they’re actually employees in disguise. And you haven’t been paying them time and a half in overtime when they ‘work’ more than 40 hours per week.”

    That, plus DMCA/copyright issues, prompted some very cautious companies to eliminate their reliance on volunteers to help with customer service issues.

    But what most companies did was simply revise their Terms of Use/End User License Agreements and other click-through boilerplate to insist, extra-hard, that volunteers are really volunteers and aren’t monitored by the company and aren’t authorized to speak and act for the company. Google’s Terms of Service are typical in that respect.

    Certainly if I were in Prof. Althouse’s shoes — justifiably and urgently concerned by the disappearance of her blog — after not very much interaction with “nitecruzr” I’d have been asking myself, “Who is this guy and does he actually work for/speak for Google?”

    If I had then closely compared the signature blocks of “nitecruzr” and “Brett,” I think I’d have figured it out. If I wanted to know very specifically whether Google has taken a formal legal position as to whether those such as “nitecruzr” speak and act for Google, or not, then I’d have looked at the Terms of Use, which would have reinforced my inference from the different signature blocks.

    Prof. Althouse may or may not have connected these dots; I’m not faulting her if she didn’t, no more than I’m faulting Patterico for his original post in which he assumed that nitecruzr was indeed a Google employee. Both have excellent minds and are fine lawyers to boot. Perhaps I viewed this scenario through the same prism but at a slightly different angle: I’ve very, very often litigated course and scope/agency issues, and I’ve more typically represented defendants who are trying to dispute or refute authority. More recently, in the blogosphere, there’s been lots of justifiable debate about what’s attributable to whom — this “racist” commenter or that “artist” who glorifies cop-killers, etc. And — with due and genuine respect — I think Patterico’s original post, which imputed responsibility to Google for everything nitecruzr said or did, might have leaped to that imputation without close examination. Hence my prolonged (and by now, probably quite annoying) quibbling.

    If all sorts of Google functions associated with a single account can be put at risk by a piqued volunteer forum administrator, that would be a very bad thing, and extremely newsworthy. I have no fault to find with Patterico for inquiring into that!

    But once again, the fact that some guy — yes, a guy who really loves Blogger and has admin powers whose scope we fear but don’t yet fully know, not some random guy — who nevertheless does not work for Google, and for whose acts and statements Google is not legally responsible, has been rude to Prof. Althouse is not really very surprising, newsworthy, or interesting. I’m not coming out in favor of rudeness or defending this particular rude guy who yada yada. I’m just yawning (albeit sympathetically: I’m sorry Prof. Althouse has been jerked around, I hope her blog fully recovers, and I’ll respect her decision to stay with or leave Blogger even though I think staying would be a bad idea).

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  116. Now the attributing positions to people that they do not hold begins.

    JD (395555)

  117. eli,

    I haven’t really thought of the political dimension. I don’t think big companies should screw people, even if they offer services for free. Remember “Dell hell”? I think one could credibly make the claim that its customer service was so bad, Dell committed the tort of fraud when it claimed to offer a warranty.

    Google has the potential to be worse, because they can cause so much more damage, as they control so much information. I think there is a legal claim to be made against Google, on a theory of estoppel, but legal solutions are often not practical solutions. You’re right: The only real solution is not to trust any one company, but to to back up, religiously.

    Brian (b7286d)

  118. The Google guy said it was spam. When other blogs came back up, hers didn’t. Other than that you have a great argument, Eli.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  119. eli, why do you remind me of another commentor here that repeatedly asserted that his own ignorance of the controversy was evidence that there was no controversy?

    Hmmmmm.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  120. I missed the backup thing. I scanned, I guess, more than studied. I was looking for evidence on a specific question.

    And NO. His comments were on the rude side… and his CONDUCT potentially disgusting and abusive.

    It just seems like the thematics of injustice are a product of the entitlement that caused her to do the “do you KNOW who I AM?!” thing, and superfluous if you accept, as everyone i know did LONG ago, that it’s a crappy service.

    eli (feea19)

  121. Carltios, what gets me about this google employee is that he obviously saw the conduct and he hasn’t changed nitecruzer’s status down.

    Someone picked Nitecruzer for this Official Blog Star status, and that status’s only meaning on the internet that I’ve found is being more authoritative with special powers on Google Help.

    And as Carlitos explained, nite’s words are called “Google Help” in emails.

    Google’s paid employees knows this unpaid worker/whatever will act this way in the future, and they knew he would act that way towards Althouse. It’s been going on for a long time.

    The best defense I can offer for Google is that blogger is free and its users agree to terms that Google isn’t responsible for absolutely any semblance of quality or reliability or reasonableness, ever.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  122. But once again, the fact that some guy — yes, a guy who really loves Blogger and has admin powers whose scope we fear but don’t yet fully know, not some random guy — who nevertheless does not work for Google,

    I don’t think we know that for a fact, do we?

    MayBee (081489)

  123. SPQR,

    I don’t think I’ve commented here before… but the ip is easily checkable.

    I’ll go away if ya’ll want… I hate trolls too.

    eli (feea19)

  124. We don’t want you to go away, we want you to quit being mendoucheous.

    JD (395555)

  125. If I had then closely compared the signature blocks of “nitecruzr” and “Brett,” I think I’d have figured it out.

    By the time Brett was on the scene, it was OK, because he said he was taking care of it. The agitation preceded his appearance.

    As for your assertion that Google is not legally responsible for nitecruzr’s actions, Beldar, I am less certain of that than you are. If he has the power to disable your account, I think they may have some legal responsibility for what he does. I don’t advocate a lawsuit and this is the first time I have raised the issue of legal responsibility, but I think your statement is unproven given his apparent ability to temporarily disable people’s Gmail.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  126. Brian,

    Agreed. Well framed.

    eli (feea19)

  127. Beldar, thanks for the lengthy reply.

    BTW, I don’t intend any snark towards you, and I realize you’re arguing an intelligent point. I’ve got a lot of respect for you, just as practically anyone familiar with you does.

    yes, a guy who really loves Blogger and has admin powers whose scope we fear but don’t yet fully know, not some random guy — who nevertheless does not work for Google, and for whose acts and statements Google is not legally responsible, has been rude to Prof. Althouse is not really very surprising, newsworthy, or interesting.

    I understand. I just think he was chosen specifically as google’s help for blogger users who need help.

    Is Google legally responsible? My personal moral sense is that because the user agreed to terms that say Google is not responsible for basically anything, then no, they aren’t. I’m not even morally outraged in some extralegal sense.

    I simply note that Google has chosen their customer service moderator very poorly, and then after having plenty of indication it’s a bad choice, don’t seem to care enough to fix it.

    Is that newsworthy? Believe it or not, but I find it to be important information. I rely on Google for a few things, and I don’t think I should now.

    I get the impression you don’t find this newsworthy partly because you already knew that Google was not going to try to offer reasonable customer service. Again, I am not trying to be snarky (and actually, I haven’t been in this thread at all, though people sometimes interpret my comments in a way I didn’t intend).

    Dustin (c16eca)

  128. Just a heads up….

    I was one of the people who tagged several comments in the Althouse thread on Google’s forum as unhelpful. A bit later I tried to post on a Blogger hosted blog and I got the error message that I needed to verify my login with a phone number.

    I wasn’t going to do that so I simply hit Back in my browser then refresh and noticed that I was still able to login without giving Google a phone number. So if anyone encounters this problem just hit back to get back to the original login screen, then hit the Refresh button and you’ll be in.

    FedkatheConvict (32ac02)

  129. “Us” is indeterminate. That’s not law, that’s grammar and usage.

    Because the “us” is on a webpage authored by Google, I agree that it’s reasonable for a user to assume that “us” includes someone who’s actually employed by, and authorized to speak and act for, Google.

    I agree that it’s also possible that a person might assume — if he/she focused only on the “contact us” language — that “us” meant “only us Google employees.”

    I think it would be unreasonable for a person — even a distressed person — to ignore other obvious evidence, however, like the signature blocks of those who are offering advice or comments on that very post.

    I will even agree for purposes of argument that a person might reasonably miss all those other cues, and that a person (even a law professor) might not immediately jump into the legal boilerplate the way I did. I repeat, I’m not criticizing Prof. Althouse, Patterico, or anyone else who might have drawn the inference that nitecruzr was a Google employee in these circumstances.

    Given what’s since been pointed out (by me and others — I didn’t start this, Instapundit’s commenter did), however, it is no longer reasonable to presume or assume that nitecruzr was a Google employee with actual authority to act or speak on its behalf.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  130. Google’s slogan is “don’t be evil.” That’s a joke because Google IS evil.

    Taxpayer (6b272d)

  131. Brian — 5/14/2011 @ 5:28 pm:

    But when Beldar sees “write us,” he’s the only person in the universe who sees:

    “write us [us incorporates by reference the Google/Blogger Terms of Service, which in part 4, subdivision 7 specifies that customer service may be conducted by...etc]“

    I don’t see the benefit of being cavalier about legal issues just because they don’t come easily. I know I don’t grasp all the nuances of medicine, engineering, astrophysics, and poetry but that doesn’t mean I should act like they don’t exist.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  132. Nitecruzr also indicates he has the capability to act as a ‘gatekeeper’ to those who make final decisions at Blogger:

    Ann,

    I’m going to treat you with courtesy and patience, as I ask Blogger to review your blog

    If he refuses to ask Blogger to review, what happens?

    MayBee (081489)

  133. I can’t believe the googlewhores are allowing nitecruzr to continue to harass and molest the unsuspecting bloggers

    It’s sickening. It makes me feel sick to my stomach like I might could throw up all over my keyboard. And probably part of my desk too.

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  134. I better go get a bucket brb

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  135. Why would it be ridiculous to assume someone deemed an “Official Blog Star” is actually acting in an official capacity?

    MayBee (081489)

  136. Totally random, but back when you could only get a gmail account through referrals, I got mine from the imao.us winning T-shirt babe. Good times.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  137. Good times.

    Comment by carlitos

    +5 Cool points

    Dustin (c16eca)

  138. I’m an “Ayn Rand libertarian” type, and I see no contradiction to that in criticizing bad corporate conduct. Libertarians believe in free speech, and even in the freest economy has courts to hold particular individuals and corporate entities to account (there we’re even courts in Galt’s Gulch.)

    Not that I speak for all libertarians, but for me at least it’s the system of liberty that provides the best chance for individual happiness; but such a system will always contain bad individual actors. In a government-controlled system, there’s one bad actor, from which we have no escape.

    Brian (b7286d)

  139. I went to make a followup comment on althouse2.blogspot.com (Althouse’s backup site) and when I hit post comment, I was brought to what appeared to me to be the login page that occasionally comes up even though I have it set to remember my session.

    Being aware that, even on those persistent logins, they periodically make one login (Yahoo lets you go a week), I figured it was just that time. Entered my password, expecting to be brought back to the thread. Instead, I was brought back to the login page.

    Figuring I must have fat-fingered the password, I started to re-enter it, when I finally noticed text, in bold, near the top left of the frame. It said something along the lines of “We have detected unusual activity with this account.” The symptoms were exactly like those described here.

    I did not want to enter my cell number. I also did not want to enter my home number (that is an option where they will read you a verification code).

    I am highly dubious of my Google account being compromised. The password on it is not the same as any of my others, my systems are virus/trojan free, and I use that email account for nothing else.

    That’s all I know. There was no email sent to me. No information at all. Timing of this happening- mere moments after me posting a critical comment on the help thread. I have no evidence that my account was compromised. But now Google has my cell number, since I caved. And I am regretting my decision. I should have walked from that account, instead.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  140. happyfeet has the kinda meta-level super-ironic humor which is great except it’s never funny.

    Brian (b7286d)

  141. Dustin, I haven’t taken any offense at anything you’ve said, nor at anything said by Patterico or anyone else. I hope we enjoy mutual stores of credibility and affability.

    I actually think Google’s overall customer service approach is reasonable given what else they’re doing, and, again, it’s responding to market demand from a large segment of customers who prefer “free” to “quick, good, and personalized customer service.” But Blogger doesn’t fit my needs, in large part because of compromises they’ve made to maintain that business model. Just as one has to tolerate outages and limited features if one chooses “free” over “customized,” one likewise has to end up tolerating, as a practical matter, situations like Prof. Althouse has just experienced — including a rude geek with a Napoleon complex on the Blogger Help Forum!

    That said, I should also point out that I have no problem with Patterico publicizing and criticizing nitecruzr’s abusive language and acts. My quibble is about the extent to which they can be attributed to Google.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  142. Given what’s since been pointed out (by me and others — I didn’t start this, Instapundit’s commenter did), however, it is no longer reasonable to presume or assume that nitecruzr was a Google employee with actual authority to act or speak on its behalf.

    I agree with most of your comment, Beldar — right up to those last ten words.

    First, there is the question of what WE, knowing everything we know about this incident, think nitecruzr’s authority is. And I submit that is still uncertain. On one side you have the TOS. On the other you have his apparent authority to disable people’s account temporarily. To take an extreme example, if you sit a guy down at the CFO’s desk and give him the company checkbook, it might not matter what the TOS says.

    Then there is the question of what the poor schmoes still today coming to him for advice think. They probably don’t know about the Althouse deal. They probably think he represents Google. That’s a problem.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  143. @ #140.

    You simply have to hit the Back button to get to the original login page, then hit Refresh and you’ll see that your UserName and Password were actually accepted and you’re logged in.

    FedkatheConvict (32ac02)

  144. I don’t see the benefit of being cavalier about legal issues just because they don’t come easily.

    I agree with this point in the abstract, and I agree with it as applied to this situation vis a vis the legal issues. I think those are murky, with a TOS that contradicts the guy’s apparent authority based on other factors.

    But from a good will standpoint, it’s not cavalier for a customer to think “write us” means writing the company — and to want to hold the company morally accountable if the “us” turns out to be a jerk.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  145. Maybee (#135) asks: “Why would it be ridiculous to assume someone deemed an ‘Official Blog Star’ is actually acting in an official capacity?”

    To which I have to ask, “Official capacity to do what?”

    Blog? As in, make posts on Blogger and/or the Blogger Help Forum? That’s what seems to be indicated by the “Top Contributor” notation.

    What does being a “Blog Star,” official or not, have to do with having authority to speak for the blog’s sponsor? Many of you who’ve commented on this post are among Patterico’s most frequent contributors. Not a damned one of you is authorized to speak for him, though, are you?

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  146. Dustin, I haven’t taken any offense at anything you’ve said, nor at anything said by Patterico or anyone else. I hope we enjoy mutual stores of credibility and affability

    Absolutely true for me. I might feel exasperated by some of Beldar’s arguments, but I retain the highest respect for him.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  147. What does being a “Blog Star,” official or not, have to do with having authority to speak for the blog’s sponsor? Many of you who’ve commented on this post are among Patterico’s most frequent contributors. Not a damned one of you is authorized to speak for him, though, are you?

    No, but that’s not the proper analogy. The proper analogy is the one I previously mentioned, where you reach a forum through a “contact us” link, where I have authorized a moderator to moderate people (temporarily disable their accounts), delete comments, and bring concerns to my attention. If that guy goes off the reservation, I have a moral duty to answer for it. Do you deny it, Beldar?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  148. we learned a lot about google’s “values” these past 24 hours, and the world is a darker and more malevolent place for it.

    we can never unknow what we now know, we can but forge ahead clutching the tatters of our innocence, but together we can vow to never again allow ourselves to be unwary

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  149. I love it when you tolerate disagreement.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  150. OK,

    Hope this isn’t douchey or whatevs… and I’m letting my tone play the matching game, I’m sure you won’t mind.

    1. There is zero evidence in your links or anywhere else I can find that her experience of the data corruption was different from anyone elses. Which i assume you read without feeling the tension. The thread is full of people with “the same issues.”

    Try this: paste in any evidence that the blog was designated as spam at any point. Customer service nearly always pastes in a scripted checklist as a screen.

    If you’re leaning on hers coming up later than others, you should be less cocksure in the future. Because that’s obviously a leap. Her massive support from Instapundit and bajillion posts may have taken longer to restore.

    2. there is a lot of evidence that blogger goes down like it’s its job… making the Waaaaahbulance a wee late.

    eli (feea19)

  151. eli,

    Althouse’s blog archive is not back. Legal Insurrection’s is.

    But you just go right on telling yourself that Althouse’s situation is not different, and that this is ALLLL about her overreacting to a general problem. After all, your opinion of her is more important than the evidence.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  152. DRJ,

    my comment was not flippant or cavalier. I think I’m right on this issue and Beldar is wrong, but I say that with some hesitancy & respect because I know Beldar litigates in this area.

    The context of my “cavalier” remark is the idea of estoppel, argued about by me & Beldar earlier in the thread. Estoppel is explained by Beldar in comment 44 as “includ[ing] a change in position in reasonable reliance on a material representation of fact.” I say Althouse “reasonably relied” upon the link associated with write usas a representation that she would be dealing with an agent of Google. Beldar has stated that such a reliance is not reasonable, citing evidence such as Blogger’s Terms of Service.

    But incorporating a Terms of Service into the reasonable person standard is wrong, sez me. Less than 1/100 of 1 percent of people on Blogger read the terms of Service, for one thing. People have lives.

    Brian (b7286d)

  153. Patterico,

    Really? It took longer for archives to come back. That’s really your evidence?!

    eli (feea19)

  154. Patterico wrote (#45):

    But from a good will standpoint, it’s not cavalier for a customer to think “write us” means writing the company — and to want to hold the company morally accountable if the “us” turns out to be a jerk.

    I agree with the first part of that. Now explain to me why a customer would think that a posting on a company-sponsored forum available to anyone who clicks that same “write us” link, and obviously being used by many other users, can only be viewed or replied to by authorized agents of Google?

    As for being morally accountable for one of its volunteers being a jerk, I agree that moral accountability may be broader than legal accountability. But I still think it matters, for purposes of moral accountability, that this wasn’t someone whom Google hired or directs.

    And I don’t think you can automatically morally impute all of nitecruzr’s statements and acts to Google any more than you can legally impute them. Yes, Google is responsible — as a matter of morals and business ethics/practices — for not having terminated nitecruzr’s admin privileges and special signature recognition. In assessing that responsibility, however, one ought to look at his performance, both in its entirety and on this occasion. He’s got 40,000+ posts. We’ve been able to find some that look pretty rude. But is there anyone who can say, “I’ve looked at all his posts and I have a factual basis to summarize them all?” I don’t think so. Anyone here privy to Google’s internal complaints, to see how many he’s generated compared to other volunteers? I don’t think so.

    If you think they ought to get rid of this particular dude, fine — send an email, post something on a blog, start a petition, schedule a protest march, whatever. Maybe you’re right, maybe you’ll persuade them you’re right.

    But it’s still small potatoes. One guy … being rude … on the internet.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  155. Beldar makes interesting comments, in the face of significant pressure. Almost certainly, Prof Althouse doesn’t have grounds for action, and the relationship between Nitcruzr and Google could be described as “plausibly deniable”.

    However, the relationship between the user and Google is different from a market between a random buyer and seller. Google manages an online identity. It kinda-reads your emails, knows what you search for, knows who you write to.

    But it also tries to shape what you see. At the start of the Climategate scandal, “climategate” did not appear in Google’s auto-complete. That’s a warning.

    Now, while it is in the business of hosting online identities, it designs a system with no room for a appeal, and significant “denial of service” attack potential. The fact that it doesn’t heed these concerns suggest (like politicians who refuse requests for an ID requirement to vote) and this isn’t a bug, but rather a feature.

    Dead Dog Bounce (e55cae)

  156. Really? It took longer for archives to come back. That’s really your evidence?!

    That’s really one of the several pieces of evidence I have offered, yes. And it’s inaccurate to say it “took” longer, because that implies that they’re back. And they’re not.

    Find me one other example of a Blogger blog whose archives aren’t back. You cite Althouse’s size as the explanation. Dude, frigging atrios has his archives back.

    You are being unreasonable and letting emotion overcome clear evidence.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  157. “Why would it be ridiculous to assume someone deemed an ‘Official Blog Star’ is actually acting in an official capacity?”

    Oops – posted this in the other thread by mistake:

    MayBee – I think (but do not KNOW!) that the “Top Contributor / Official Blog*Star” designation may be nothing more than a function of how many posts someone has on that forum. That’s pretty typical of a forum like that. Althouse is “Level 2″ and the people just joining are “Level 1.” Maybe after 5,000 posts you get that designation.

    That said, when you mouse over “nitecruzr” you see that the guy is named “chuck” and there is a photo of a giraffe. When you mouse over “Brett from Google” you see “Brett has not created a profile yet.” I can totally see where someone would miss the difference, especially if this were the first time they used help, AND if some jerk was acting as the gateway to service.

    As I mentioned above, apple do a much better job of making their real employees obvious on their support forum.

    Comment by carlitos — 5/14/2011 @ 6:27 pm

    carlitos (1596cc)

  158. Eli, after the outage, Althouse.blogspot.com put up a page that said the blog had been deleted.

    Nitecruzr said the deletion had been forwarded for review. This was at a time when the forum was full of threads about missing single posts.

    Dead Dog Bounce (e55cae)

  159. I agree with the first part of that. Now explain to me why a customer would think that a posting on a company-sponsored forum available to anyone who clicks that same “write us” link, and obviously being used by many other users, can only be viewed or replied to by authorized agents of Google?

    Now explain to me where I said such a forum could only be “viewed or replied to” by authorized agents. Obviously tons of people “viewed” and “responded to” Althouse’s concerns. So the argument you are responding to is not mine.

    As to why Ann might have thought this particular fellow had any status different from other users: duh. He said he did. He has the power to escalate concerns. He has the power to moderate forum posts. He has the power to temporarily disable accounts. All the stuff I already said.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  160. BTW, one feature that people should remember is that Nitecruzr has the ability to delete comments from the support thread, to distort impressions of the discussion.

    That is deeply against my sense of online ethics, and far more serious that the snark.

    Dead Dog Bounce (e55cae)

  161. So, you don’t have evidence that this wasn’t data corruption rather than a nefarious plot?

    Somebody’s will be restored last. Spam has nothing to do with that.

    I’ll make this claim: her blog was never classified as spam.

    What’s the evidence you are so proud of?

    eli (feea19)

  162. Brian: “People have lives” is a fine argument. It won’t in any court of law in the nation.

    Clicking on “contact us” is not a material or detrimental change in position. And I’m not saying it’s only the Terms of Use that should have dispelled any impression that Google is legally responsible for nitecruzr or that he is authorized to speak and act for Google. I’m saying that things like the signature blocks, and the other users posting, and the entire context — including the Terms of Use of anyone wants to know — ought to have alerted any reasonable person that this was not some confidential Q&A directly and solely between Google and said reasonable person.

    Contract law still holds the hypothetical reasonable person to the burden of reading what he/she signs. You think this is unique to the internet age? People have been making the “nobody reads this stuff, people have lives” argument at least since the courts of the Roman Republic — and they’ve always lost. Equity won’t create a right or remedy on a subject on which the parties have expressly contracted to the contrary.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  163. But it’s still small potatoes. One guy … being rude … on the internet.

    Yup. One guy … with power to disable your Google account, representing himself as part of the “we” of Google … being rude … on the Internet … specifically, a part of the Internet designated by Google as the place to go for help.

    Fixed it for you.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  164. ack — “won’t HUNT in any court of law in the nation,” that first line ought to have ended. Sorry.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  165. Brian: “People have lives” is a fine argument. It won’t in any court of law in the nation.

    Nope. But in the court of popular opinion, it’s a damn fine argument.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  166. So, you don’t have evidence that this wasn’t data corruption rather than a nefarious plot?

    So, you haven’t read my responses and are just pretending you did?

    Done with you.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  167. To which I have to ask, “Official capacity to do what?”

    Well, the user wouldn’t know, would he?

    You click “write us”, you get a guy with a title that says something “Official”, who uses the term “we”, and indicates he has the power to deny your ability to appeal.

    Yes, Brett came along later and his label said “Google Employee”. But that could be someone that works for google but has nothing to do with the blogs.

    One can’t assume the user understands the labels the way Google does. I simply think the term “Official” could easily lead the user to believe he’s officially acting on Google’s behalf.

    MayBee (081489)

  168. Patterico:

    But from a good will standpoint, it’s not cavalier for a customer to think “write us” means writing the company — and to want to hold the company morally accountable if the “us” turns out to be a jerk.

    I understand holding nitecruzr and Google accountable in the court of public opinion and while you’ve clarified that you were talking about good will and not legal liability, I submit that wasn’t initially clear. Meanwhile Brian is talking estoppel — and that’s clearly a legal concept that deals with legal liability. In light of all that, I don’t see why Beldar and I should be criticized for pointing out there are other legal issues involved.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  169. I just got locked out of my Gmail, folks.

    Time for a new post.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  170. Beldar – Since no one anywhere reads any terms of service (TOS) when they install “angry birds” or start a blog or whatever, at some point, will TOS become legally moot? I’m curious as to your opinion, since it sounds like you know this area legally.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  171. Maybee:

    One can’t assume the user understands the labels the way Google does. I simply think the term “Official” could easily lead the user to believe he’s officially acting on Google’s behalf.

    Yes, one can assume that. That’s why they write their Terms of Service. What most here seem to be saying is that we can’t expect internet users to actually bother to read and understand the Terms of Service. Most people probably don’t but that isn’t an excuse.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  172. This is how you scare people out of criticizing a company, no?

    MayBee (081489)

  173. I understand holding nitecruzr and Google accountable in the court of public opinion and while you’ve clarified that you were talking about good will and not legal liability, I submit that wasn’t initially clear. Meanwhile Brian is talking estoppel — and that’s clearly a legal concept that deals with legal liability. In light of all that, I don’t see why Beldar and I should be criticized for pointing out there are other legal issues involved.

    I’m not intending to criticize either of you for pointing out that there are other legal issues involved. At all. If anything I have written seems to suggest I have, I have communicated badly.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  174. Patterico.

    That’s an evasion and you clearly know it.

    The blog was never offline because of a designation as spam. It was offline like thousands of other blogs, and is taking much longer to be righted. That’s it. The rest seems to be nothing more than paranoid fantasy.

    They had a data corruption event. She felt above that, assumed a plot, you swooped in… and here’s where we are.

    I’m happy for you to be done with me. Your not what I thought you were.

    eli (feea19)

  175. I don’t trust Brett at all he’s a goddamn slitheryn I think

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  176. I can restore it if I send them my cell phone number.

    Probably I will, since I rely on Gmail.

    For now.

    Will post a screenshot in a second.

    Has everyone seen how this has evolved? What suspicious activity has there been on my account, other than criticizing Google?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  177. Patterico (#160) wrote:

    Now explain to me where I said such a forum could only be “viewed or replied to” by authorized agents.”

    I didn’t say you said that. But you seem to think there’s something wrong with a “contact us” link which goes to a forum read not only by Google’s paid customer service employees, but also its volunteers like “nitecruzr.”

    If I have misunderstood you, I’m willing to be corrected. But it was, in fact, the “contact us” link that got Prof. Althouse to Brett, a genuine Google employee. So I can’t figure out what else you think is wrong with the “contact us” link other than that it put Prof. Althouse also (and, admittedly, sooner) in contact with volunteer nitecruzr and his imperious ego.

    I don’t like the ego. But I don’t have any problem at all with the fact that the link goes where it goes. Would you be satisfied with a pop-up warning which said, whenever that link is clicked, “The forum you’re about to go includes unmoderated comments by users who may be rude to you and may pretend like they’re more important or connected than they really are”? That would be truthful, and perhaps useful; I just don’t think it’s necessary, given the rest of the context that’s apparent when one actually clicks the link and sees the forums.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  178. Think about what being “locked out of gmail” means.

    - No gmail (der)
    - No google talk
    - No visibility of stuff you forwarded to gmail and forgot when / why / how, like my consulting email account
    - No google maps?
    - No ability to reset passwords for any site where you used gmail address to register
    - In my case, a screwed-up Facebook

    Anything else?

    carlitos (1596cc)

  179. I’m happy for you to be done with me. Your not what I thought you were.

    Ah, the old “more in sadness” routine, designed to artificially bolster credibility.

    I give you about three pieces of evidence, and when I give you the third, you question me as if that’s all I have said. It’s a fundamentally dishonest way of arguing.

    And it’s so disappointing, too. Because I thought so much better of you!

    Patterico (c218bd)

  180. OMG. This happened to me yesterday too. I originally thought it was because something screwy had happened with my laptop accessing the account (I had to change all my passwords due to the PlayStation Network fiasco) and I thought that maybe my laptop had been pinging Google (repeatedly) with the old password.

    Now I’m seeing that’s not the case. The password was good and I had to go through the verify thing with my phone number.

    Now I’m seriously pissed.

    Hoystory (d0fa8a)

  181. Hmm. Is google really just trying to collect phone #’s? Could it be that simple? I have to admit, the google earth truck with all the cameras was parked outside my house this week and it kinda creeped me out.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  182. I just tried using Google Reader. I think, before I send them my cell phone number, I should explore and take screenshots of the various services that I cannot use, all of a sudden, because nitecruzr (or someone else) has taken offense at my statements.

    I can’t email Ann Althouse or Glenn Reynolds from usual, recognized address.

    I presumably can’t leave a comment on Blogger using my Google account. (Haven’t tried, but I will, and will take a screenshot).

    carlitos has suggested some other things to explore. That’s what I’ll do.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  183. Yes, one can assume that. That’s why they write their Terms of Service. What most here seem to be saying is that we can’t expect internet users to actually bother to read and understand the Terms of Service. Most people probably don’t but that isn’t an excuse.

    But if we are to believe the Terms of Service as you and Beldar want them read, even Brett the Google Employee didn’t represent the company.

    Patterico has a commenter policy, and a disclaimer. But if he comments on his blog, it would be perfectly apt to believe he is expressing the official position of the blog.

    So we know nitecruzer had “official” in his title, had moderation abilities, the ability to deny an appeal, and possibly the ability to lock people out of their accounts.

    How is the user supposed to read the TOS and come to the definite conclusion that Google didn’t put him forth as their representative?

    MayBee (081489)

  184. Do we know for a fact that he’s just a volunteer? People keep saying that, but I haven’t seen that established as a fact. Has it been?

    MayBee (081489)

  185. UPDATE x3: I just got locked out of my Google account. I now have to provide a cell phone number to get back in. This is what I saw when I tried to access Gmail:

    Do I want to give Google my cell phone number? No. But I currently rely on Gmail. So I am faced with a tough choice.

    I will probably give in. And I will probably explore new options for e-mail.

    I will have a new post about this soon. I am locked out of Google Reader as well. I plan to explore what else is disabled, for the offense of criticizing nitecruzr.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  186. carlitos (#171): The enforceability of click-through EULAs and ToS agreements and the like is still an evolving subject. Most, but not all, of the appellate decisions are from California — many of them from federal trial or appellate courts, but some from the state-court system as well — because so many of the high-tech companies are based there and choose California substantive law (often with mandatory forum selection provisions as well). Cynics will tell you that despite the general populism of state and federal courts in California, those jurists also know which side of California’s bread is buttered by those high-tech companies, and no one expects the California courts to lead the way in voiding these software contracts.

    In general, the courts (in California and elsewhere) have upheld these agreements even while explicitly acknowledging that no one in the real world ever reads them. They deem that real-world reality to be irrelevant to the question of whether a binding contract (with “meeting of the minds,” etc.) has been formed on the terms and conditions of the document.

    Merely having a fine-print “warning” or a link somewhere on your marketing web page isn’t enough to make the documents “conspicuous” and to make the asset to the agreement “unambiguous.” Likewise, something printed inside the package that’s not visible through the shrink-wrap may be found unenforceable because it’s not conspicuous and fully available before making the purchase decision.

    The courts generally require that the companies base their consent argument on a specific affirmative act of each user — but yeah, a mouse-click in a designated block or area is enough if you have to complete that step before using the software.

    Blizzard’s protocols for “World of Warcraft” are probably state-of-the-art as far as ensuring the enforceability of most or all of its licensing agreements. Every time you log onto your WoW account, you have to (re-)confirm your acceptance by clicking a designated box after scrolling to the bottom of the long boiler-plate agreement. Very conspicuous, very unambiguous — and the 0.5 second delay imposed by the protocol is tolerated without complaint by all its users.

    But even considerably less sophisticated and multi-layered click-through agreements have been upheld so long as they’re sufficiently conspicuous and with unambiguous consent mechanisms.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  187. that’s very very sketch Mr. P I wouldn’t give these googlewhores my phone number ever ever ever

    what they can do is they can suck it

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  188. Tap tap tap …

    Is this thing on?

    I just got locked out of my Gmail account for criticizing Google.

    What if I didn’t have a cell phone? I’m tempted to pretend I don’t, just to see what happens when I try to get help.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  189. Patterico, that’s creepy as hell.

    I’m curious if we can all agree on a few things.

    Is Google responsible if their unpaid moderator is abusing a power to disable Gmail accounts after a pattern of abuse of privileges?

    Is Google responsible for the other behavior if ‘Official Blog*Star’ means Google chose someone for the task Nitecruzr is doing so poorly?

    Dustin (c16eca)

  190. The funny part is, if you click on that link for “learn more about your support options” . . . it takes you to those Google forums.

    You know what? I’m not giving them the cell phone number, at least right now.

    Let’s see how the forums handle this issue.

    Maybe I’ll get help from nitecruzr!

    Patterico (c218bd)

  191. Should the power to disable Gmail accounts reside with a moderator who may be unpaid and for whom Google claims no responsibility?

    MayBee (081489)

  192. Tap tap tap

    Aw man.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  193. As far as I can tell, this is what’s on the table:

    > her archives are not back up, but other people’s are

    which I don’t think proves that her blog was designated as spam, because… it obviously does not. Some will come up sooner, some later, some last. MAYBE they’re holding hers back… but there’s no evidence of intent, much less that the mechanism was a spam designation.

    > her concern was escalated (*not your evidence, but a helpful commenter’s).

    which is the same as saying, I’ll send this up the chain for them to dig into. On a day when their server’s hemorrhaged, this just sounds reasonable.

    > implicitly, the transcript could be an admission- “if your blog violates spam rules, we aren’t putting it back up”… but as I say, this is likely a checklist used to filter frivolous complaints, ~ ‘we’ll look at your phone but don’t cover water damage, so check your moisture sensor’.

    In all honesty, am I missing something? If we disagree about the above, cool. But i HATE missing evidence. So if you’d be so kind.

    eli (feea19)

  194. Patterico- I hope you have learned not to criticize Google. And by that I mean, don’t criticize people with whom Google has no real relationship (or whatever).

    MayBee (081489)

  195. Patterico, can you imagine if your work computer was that Chrome laptop?

    What if they require something more than a cell phone number? Your SSN? I’ve seen credit card numbers used for ‘verification’.

    Frankly, Google is supposed to be in the information business. They are supposed to be able to determine if you are a real person, if they have access to your entire private email account. This thuggery shows quite a bit of incompetence.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  196. Dead Dog Bounce (#161) wrote:

    [O]ne feature that people should remember is that Nitecruzr has the ability to delete comments from the support thread, to distort impressions of the discussion.

    That is deeply against my sense of online ethics, and far more serious that the snark.

    Having your loved ones silently and mysteriously “disappeared” — “Nacht und nebel” — was worse than seeing the Gestapo seize and carry off your loved ones. (Ding ding ding, I win today’s “Proof of Godwin’s Law” prize!) And (more to the point) I absolutely agree that the ability to delete comments/posts is subject to great misuse, and appears to have been misused by nitecruzr.

    On the (proverbial) other hand, though: If there’s one useful power a forum moderator has to have, it’s the ability to delete posts on grounds that they’re abusive, obscene, spam, etc.

    Here, it’s the abusive exercise of discretion, rather than the existence of the discretion itself, which is disappointing.

    By contrast, if volunteers like nitecruzr have even the discretionary power to do something that goes beyond a Google user’s posting privileges at the Blogger Help Forum, and that instead blocks any use of a particular Google user’s account, then that’s probably a creation of discretionary authority that ought to be re-thought and seriously re-worked to minimize the abuse potential.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  197. Maybee,

    Why does it matter that you may not know the exact status of the person you are dealing with at Google? Obviously we all want to escalate our problems to someone with real authority so we can get a solution that makes us happy, but that’s a customer service issue. The legal issue is the agreement we made when we signed on to use Google products, not the status of who we talked to after-the-fact or what their authority is to resolve a complaint.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  198. DRJ and Beldar,

    I’m interested in your views (not legal, but just customer service/corporate creepiness) on my getting locked out of Gmail and being required to provide a cell phone number to get my access restored.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  199. eli writes: The blog was never offline because of a designation as spam. It was offline like thousands of other blogs, and is taking much longer to be righted. That’s it.

    If you had actually followed the controversy in detail, you would know better than to misrepresent the chronology.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  200. Thanks Beldar. As a non-lawyer, I hadn’t even considered venue bias. Those wall-of-text EULA’s are really stretching the definition of ‘meeting of the minds’ in my opinion.

    —–

    Patrick – maybe you should send a tip to someone who could blog about your lockout. Here’s one:

    Patterico, followed by the @ symbol, followed by gmail.com

    Oh, wait…maybe you could use Aaron’s:

    edmd5.20.10@gmail.com

    Hmm.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  201. Blogger status — Apparently Althouse isn’t the only blog that’s still having problems:

    Update (5/14 5:37 PM PST): We’re making progress restoring comments, some blogs with a lot of content are taking a little more time. Thanks for bearing with us.

    Update (5/13 7:46PM PST): Nearly all posts since Wednesday are restored, now bringing back comments from last couple days. We expect the comments to be back this weekend or sooner.

    What a frustrating day. We’re very sorry that you’ve been unable to publish to Blogger for the past 20.5 hours. We’re nearly back to normal — you can publish again, and in the coming hours posts and comments that were temporarily removed should be restored. Thank you for your patience while we fix this situation. We use Blogger for our own blogs, so we’ve also felt your pain.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  202. Oh, I forgot. It happened to Aaron too.

    That’s five.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  203. SPQR,

    So that goes to ethos, you know more about the case than I do. OK. If it’s close on the evidence, you should win.

    Now what’s your evidence that the blog was at some point designated as spam? Does that make your cheeks flush? Do you know where to go to copy/paste the smoking gun?

    If you don’t have relevant evidence, just stay out of it. I’ll concede you’re awesome and I suck. I’ll survive. But evidence is a different thing.

    eli (feea19)

  204. I’m guessing the rest of the remaining content that’s missing is just subterfuge to hide their persecution of Ann.

    So clever.

    eli (feea19)

  205. @ Patterico (#199): I seem to recall seeing something on another blog in the last week or two — maybe Boing-Boing? Wired? — on the general subject of Google accounts being “flagged” and Google users being required to give a phone number. I’m thinking it was being speculated or tied in some way to the Sony security breach disclosures, though — certainly not to Prof. Althouse or Blogger in particular.

    That might suggest — and I’m completely speculating here, WAGs aplenty — that there was some new set of security and “flagging” protocols recently. Whether nitecruzr is abusing them by flagging accounts of those who’re critical of him on the Blogger Help Forum, I dunno. But I think I’d want to know more about the bigger picture regarding user account security at Google before drawing any firm conclusions.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  206. The legal issue is the agreement we made when we signed on to use Google products, not the status of who we talked to after-the-fact or what their authority is to resolve a complaint.

    I’m not really interested in the legal aspect.

    MayBee (081489)

  207. UPDATE x5: Oh, I forgot. My co-blogger Aaron told me by Gmail (before it went down) that it happened to him too. And, like Hoystory, he criticized nitecruzr on a forum thread. (I did today as well, on this one. It has since been deleted, but I have screenshots, of course.)

    So that’s five.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  208. I definitely would not give Google my cell phone number, but I don’t trust Google’s politics so in general I avoid Google. Can’t your web host set up email address(es) for you with your website domain? That’s what I would consider.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  209. Eli’s arc was predictable, no?

    The Book of Eli is a remarkable movie so far.

    JD (395555)

  210. Patrick

    I had sent you an email reply but… um, not sure you are getting it anytime soon. So here’s a cut and paste from that.

    ——————————–

    Patrick

    Honestly, it was not anything more than what you are reporting. I got the “unusual activity” flag for my account (this one), provided the info and within seconds the email was restored. And like I said, you can see what I said by my first post on this whole mess.

    I didn’t really get bothered by giving out my number because I had to do that once before. Indeed, I could be wrong, but I think I had to give a number to create the account. I forgot when I had to verify it the first time, but I had not been doing anything like what appears to have triggered this “scrutiny.” Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it until you mentioned it in your post.

    I have mixed feelings about Google and blogger because of all this. There is no question that there is a break-down here of their conduct, or at least they are letting this one guy run loose with way too much power.

    On the other hand, I do remember fondly that during the Everyone Draw Mohammed thing that I was even under threat from Islamofascist hackers and… somehow the blogger site I created never had a problem. I don’t know if that means they didn’t notice or care about what I was doing and they just were good enough at what they did to block those hackers automatically, or if some unsung hero went and defended my blog from them, but I warned them the hack attack was coming and… I never got a response from them but also nothing bad happened. By comparison the Islamofacists did take down the big Facebook page. And, I hasten to add, Google/Blogger didn’t decide at some point that the Islamofascists should be appeased by removing my blog.

    Google clearly needs to fix how customers are treated. Ann, for instance, has clearly made them a lot of money with her free or low cost* content drawing in advertisers. And there are thousands of people watching this and disgusted. For instance, I can bet Professor Jacobson of Legal Insurrection is starting to wonder about this as are other bloggers who are smaller individually, but collectively just as important.

    Most bloggers by the nature of the beast love freedom of speech and the press. If you liked centrally controlled speech and press, you probably wouldn’t blog. So it’s self-selecting that way. There are few bloggers i know of, left or right, that I believe would be cool with what happened/is happening to Ann and those who protested it.

    Feel free to quote as much or as little of this as you want.

    * (Depending on her arrangement, she might be getting a little money for the advertisement on her blog–but it’s probably not much.)

    Aaron

    P.S.: If you want to quote my comment on the forum, especially to show I was not rude or anything like that, here’s the bare text of it:

    nitecruzr

    Ann Althouse’s blog is not like spam on any level. This blockage is ridiculous. She is a regular political blogger who has done great work. I have written over at Patterico’s that she deserved a pulitzer for what she did during the wisconsin protests. http://patterico.com/2011/03/18/%e2%80%9cnow-you-are-a-target%e2%80%9d-the-new-civility-targets-ann-althouse/

    She has not and never will spam. Your algorithms are wrong and really, I can’t believe that no one at google knows of her blog and knows that this is a ridiculous block.

    Btw, if you want to get a sense of what kinds of things appeared on her blog before you blocked it, use this address to search the site I am guest blogging at.

    http://patterico.com/index.php?s=althouse&submit=Search

    I have liked and recommended blogger for years. I have recommended it to others. We are all talking about this, and so far google is looking really bad.

    http://patterico.com/2011/05/13/psa-how-to-find-althouse%e2%80%99s-blog/

    There is no need for an appeal. She is innocent. Unblock her site, NOW.

    It is firm, and yes obviously threatening them with bad publicity, but it was not rude imho.

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  211. I’m not really interested in the legal aspect.

    Okay. Then what is your concern?

    DRJ (fdd243)

  212. My claim is that if Google furnished nitecruzr with what a reasonable person would take to be the authority to act as the agent of Google, then Google is estopped from denying responsibility for nitecruzr’s conduct. Google did just that, with the “write us,” and with the significant powers it gave nitecruzr. Thus, for example, if nitecruzr defamed Althouse, Althouse could name Google as a defendant (subject to the same problems of vicariously suing any entity for defamation.)

    Above, I referred to “a reasonable person.” Thus, it’s plausible that the TOS and other indicia that Beldar rehearses may indicate to some other reasonable person that nitecruzr is not an agent of Google. But does the presence of such indicia show that every reasonable person in the world would know that nitecruzr is not an agent of Google? That’s what Baldar seems to claim when he says that such indicia “ought to have alerted any reasonable person that this was not some confidential Q&A directly and solely between Google and said reasonable person.” Forget about the confidentiality issue, such is besides the point. I think the weight of evidence on both sides of the agency issue is such that reasonable people can disagree, which means that my hypothetical Althouse defamation claim would survive summary judgment (at least on the agency issue.)

    “Equity won’t create a right or remedy on a subject on which the parties have expressly contracted to the contrary.”

    I take this to mean that, e.g., if Althouse clicked on the TOS “agree” button, then she cannot use an equitable argument to, e.g., take her claim to court, if there’s an arbitration clause. Or even claim that that Google was the bailee of her archives, if the TOS denies a bailment relationship. But I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around this principle as it applies to the issue of agency. I don’t see how a TOS provision that says “our volunteer twerps are not agents of Google” trumps other representations and conduct which do furnish apparent authority to people like nitecruzr. The issue of agency doesn’t seem to fall under the “right or remedy” rubric.

    But maybe it does, and I’m not getting it at the moment. I’m used to arguing with people dumber than Beldar. I’ll have to cogitate on this one.

    Brian (b7286d)

  213. JD,

    As good as that may feel, its not what we would call evidence.

    It’s pathetic.

    “My standard narratives can be applied here.” Congrats.

    But i was chastised about evidence, and am just hanging around to see if it exists. You didn’t exactly move the ball.

    eli (feea19)

  214. Your mileage may vary: Since my posts quibbling with Patterico in ways that might be exculpatory of Google, I’ve received several emails informing me that I’ve won the Google Lottery!

    Also the Belgian Lottery. And Kadafi’s nephew has offered to let me help the family export the billions in gold bullion, as soon as I send them my bank account info ….

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  215. What if I didn’t have a cell phone? I’m tempted to pretend I don’t, just to see what happens when I try to get help.

    They offer to voice call a land line as well.

    I have never given my cell phone # to any online service, ever. This strikes me as weird. The only thing I have ever verified through phone is my online banking.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  216. Just submitted a support ticket. I explained what happened as follows:

    I received a notice saying “We’ve detected unusual activity on your account. To immediately restore access to your account, type your phone number below.” I do not wish to provide a cell phone number to Google.

    We’ll see if I ever get a response. I’m still locked out.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  217. They offer to voice call a land line as well.

    Not giving them my home number. Would rather give my cell.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  218. Now what’s your evidence that the blog was at some point designated as spam?

    Eli, you said “: The blog was never offline because of a designation as spam. ”

    Where is your proof. It seems that such a designation would be an internally held piece of data. Someone like nitecruzr would be able to check that data and escalate to an appeal. When he did that, he said it was spam.

    You keep ignoring that, and ignoring a lot of other things. How weird.

    You actually don’t know that people reported her blog as spam, or if it was removed for that reason, do you? Althouse has to speculate on why her blog was removed too, and the only person who claimed to have special access to why it was removed seemed to keep saying it was because of spam concerns.

    She even entered the thread assuming it was the disruption DRJ has mentioned, and they corrected her, saying it was “automatic spam detection”.

    Only moments after Brett entered the thread, Althouse’s blog url worked again. That’s interesting, because it suggests it was easy to do.

    No, Cristoph, we can’t prove one way or another why the blog was removed. That’s why Eli’s claims are so weird.

    Okay. Then what is your concern?

    Comment by DRJ

    There’s more to life than the law. Google should try to behave in a less awful manner. They should be responsible. We should find companies we can rely on. You, wisely, have avoided Google, and I didn’t realize I should have done the same.

    I don’t think it makes much sense to go into a courtroom over this. Clearly Google put a lot of work into protecting themselves legally with that ridiculous disclaimer. But Patterico and Althouse are learning a hard lesson about Google.

    My hope is that thousands of people join me in finding alternatives.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  219. Okay. Then what is your concern?

    My concern is that Google has a lot of power- politically, over people’s individual information, and over information access- and seems uncaring about how it handles that power.
    They have shown themselves in this instance to be unresponsive, and willing to let people who are jerks represent them. It also seems they may be bordering on allowing retribution over personal slights.

    MayBee (081489)

  220. Eli is exactly like the hundreds of clowns that preceded him.

    Patterico – I would give them nothing. And it would be really hard for someone to argue that this is not punitive now.

    JD (395555)

  221. OK, general call here. I have listed five people with Google accounts who criticized Google over Althouse and got locked out.

    Is there a single person reading this thread — even one — who has been locked out of their Google account in the last 24 hours and did NOT criticize Google or nitecruzr?

    Even one?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  222. Beldar? Is your only comment a suggestion that this has happened because of routine security?

    If so, then surely we can find ONE person who got locked out who did not criticize nitecruzr/Google. I have five examples of people getting locked out who did.

    By the way, I criticized nitecruzr directly on a forum post. My comment was deleted. I mention this in an update. So this is not some crazy conspiracy theory that the CEO of Google is monitoring my blog. This is a statement that Google is allowing nitecruzr to take retaliatory action against people who criticize him.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  223. Eli is exactly like the hundreds of clowns that preceded him.

    Comment by JD

    You mean how he just ignores evidence repeatedly, while saying no one offered any, or do you mean how he claims his ignorance of evidence proves his assumptions are true?

    Oh, I think you mean that he behaves like a child.

    Regardless, there are smart people arguing both sides of this issue, so there’s no reason to waste time with the other ones.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  224. You simply have to hit the Back button to get to the original login page, then hit Refresh and you’ll see that your UserName and Password were actually accepted and you’re logged in.

    This was categorically not the case.

    I am not a lawyer. I am a geek.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  225. Dustin,

    I understand there is more to life than law but Maybee expressed concerns about the status of Google’s representatives and there are only two reasons that matters. First, because you want to know the legal ramifications or, second, because you want specific customer service relief.

    We’ve exhausted ourselves discussing the legal issue so that leaves the customer service aspect. I still don’t understand why it matters what someone’s status is from a purely customer service standpoint. In that case, the only issue is whether the person helping you can give you the relief you want. If they can’t or won’t, you escalate until you get someone who can.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  226. They have shown themselves in this instance to be unresponsive, and willing to let people who are jerks represent them.

    This doesn’t seem that complicated: From a PR perspective, that nitecruzer is given the power to not only delete feedback from users but to also be insulting and condescending toward them, suggests to me that Google doesn’t have a problem with that. I personally would not want to be putting any faith in a business (whether I’m paying for access or not) that treats me so rudely. The buck stops with Google.

    Also, that they are demanding personal info like phone numbers for verification makes me think they are going to use that to their advantage: spamming people on them…possibly using it to promote left leaning agendas… who knows, the possibilities are interesting to consider though. And very troubling.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  227. I just checked Better Half and oldest daughter’s accounts, and they are fine.

    JD (395555)

  228. I have an old Google account that I set up a couple of years ago to comment at websites that require me to sign in. I only use it about once every 30 days but I just tried to sign in and it asked me for my cell phone. However, I don’t think I’m locked out of my account.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  229. Google should try to behave in a less awful manner. They should be responsible. We should find companies we can rely on.

    They should try to behave in a less awful manner, but don’t have to. The power is in the hands of Google users to make the decision that they don’t want to be treated poorly, and then walk.

    They should be responsible, but don’t have to. When enough people decide this is not how they wish to be treated and it has an impact on them, then they might decide to assume whatever responsibility is theirs. But not until then. They don’t have to – yet.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  230. I haven’t blogged at all over the past few weeks, and have done so only sporadically over the past few years, but as recently as yesterday, my GMail account advised me it had detected unusual activity and asked me for a cell phone number to secure it against unauthorized use. ZOMG, maybe Google is so goddamned evil that they’re not only shutting down everyone who criticizes their prized “nitecruzr,” they’re even going after those of us who don’t go out of our way to say nice things about him!. Either that, or maybe, just maybe, GMail is reacting to some recent security issues which, Althouse’s narcissism notwithstanding, haven’t a f’ing thing to do either with her or with some nameless volunteer with an ego nearly matching her own.

    From where I sit, Google’s free ice cream is worth a lot more than you or I pay for it, while Nitecruzr’s and Althouse’s are worth slightly less. Yes, Nitecruzer is a dick, and certainly should be fired for his unprofessional conduct if he were a professional in the first place, but on the flip side, let’s not forget that much of his dickishness was in direct response to the “Do you know who I am?” attitude underlying Althouse’s original inquiry. She wrote as though the stature of her blog should entitle her to a faster, more expeditious review than the little people on Blogger could reasonably expect. It was kinda refreshing to see someone put her in her place on that front, if only for a few hours before the grownups took over and rectified the problem in record time (which I certainly hope they would also do for the little people).

    As to whether Nitecruzr supposedly having authority to speak for Google, SO FRIGGIN’ WHAT????!!!!! Nitecruzr himself made it clear from the start he did NOT speak for Google, so any question of whether he theoretically could have is purely academic. The very first response in the thread stated, and I quote:

    If you started this discussion, just reply here, saying that you’ve read these Guidelines – and we’ll pass your appeal to Blogger.
    [Emphasis added.]

    Does anyone read that last sentence to mean “If you started this discussion, just reply here, saying you’ve read these Guidelines, and Google will pass your appeal to itself?” Really?

    Xrlq (56a2ad)

  231. Now explain to me why a customer would think that a posting on a company-sponsored forum available to anyone who clicks that same “write us” link, and obviously being used by many other users, can only be viewed or replied to by authorized agents of Google?

    I wouldn’t.

    However, I would expect that only an authorized agent of Google would be able to tamper with my account, up to and including making it so I would have to give a phone number to a company to whom I had studiously avoided giving a phone number.

    The question is- did this happen to others? If no, then it was just a fluky of fluky flukes that an automated process hit me at the very second Nitecruzr was deleting my criticizing post. If yes (and I did see another commenter on a blog– perhaps this one, perhaps Althouse’s backup blog, perhaps Ace, possibly others), then it was an abuse of trust and of power.

    Also note- when I was locked out, there was no other way to contact them. You cannot find a direct email to communicate with. You are directed to the help forums, were someone like Nitecruzr will ‘escalate’ (read: contact the actual customer support people, who users cannot contact directly) the matter.

    And, if you are complaining about the actions of one ‘Nitecruzr’, apparently the complaint goes to where he can be the one to handle it. Unless you happen to get lucky (or there happens to be too much noise for him to control).

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  232. Dustin,

    Thanks for replying on the content.

    You’re totally right. I have no idea if her blog was designated as spam (i don’t think anyone does), but I don’t think there’s a plausible case that it was, I was just trying to focus the argument where my doubt is.

    I don’t think you found a good example of what I ignored. I said this:

    > her concern was escalated (*not your evidence, but a helpful commenter’s).

    which is the same as saying, I’ll send this up the chain for them to dig into. On a day when their server’s hemorrhaged, this just sounds reasonable.

    > implicitly, the transcript could be an admission- “if your blog violates spam rules, we aren’t putting it back up”… but as I say, this is likely a checklist used to filter frivolous complaints, ~ ‘we’ll look at your phone but don’t cover water damage, so check your moisture sensor’.

    That was my answer. I think you’re skipping steps… ‘it MUST have been because he WOULD have had the ability to check, etc.’ Your assumptions weigh something, but I think they don’t serve as plausible evidence. We disagree. To say that was “ignored” though, isn’t fair. At worst, my doubts aren’t substantial, or my alternative explanation (checklist screen) isn’t plausible. I don’t see why you’d think that.

    The “it magically came back up after so-and-so entered the forum” doesn’t prove anything. Post hoc… blah blah. It more likely proves that her massive PR project was baring fruit. Or maybe that they were trying to be responsive in due course. Or a coincidence. “Makes you say ‘hmmmmm’ isn’t much of a warrant for positive inferences.) Partially because “hmmmmmm” moments can reflect our biases, which is why I’m here.

    AND, why are OTHER BLOGS still missing data? Why? Patterico dared me to find out if there was one, then we find there are some… so what now?

    eli (feea19)

  233. I was locked out just now, asked to give my phone number, instead jumped to save and continue without giving it and was able to access the account.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  234. In that case, the only issue is whether the person helping you can give you the relief you want. If they can’t or won’t, you escalate until you get someone who can.

    In other words, Althouse should have tried to ascertain if this was the level she needed to reach to get help, and if not, keep trying to escalate.

    That’s a fair analysis, DRJ. One of my links shows someone trying to ask Nitecruzr if he is that level, and being insulted for it (it appears he never got to anyone above Nitecruzr). I do wonder, how do they escalate? Althouse resorted to an instalanche. Obviously, you and I are not really familiar with how the in and outs of Google’s escalation process. It looks like Google has set things up to make it tricky.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  235. For the record, I had no problem giving Google my phone number–since it’s a Google Voice number, but I am seriously troubled that this guy could potentially have the power to make me unreachable on my cell phone.

    Hoystory (d0fa8a)

  236. My youtube / gmail / etc. logins are all ok.

    I was NOT suggesting that you give your home #, just preparing you for a potential rebuttal from the evil people at google. :)

    carlitos (1596cc)

  237. Dana, what’s really annoying is that a lot of people will accept being treated the way Google treats them. Best case scenario, Google is going to blanket the internet with accusations of suspicious activity in hopes of collecting lots of phone numbers.

    We are moving more and more towards a culture that relies on these intrusive creepy companies.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  238. Xrlq,

    Were you allowed to save and continue like Dana?

    You can see my screenshot. I didn’t get that option.

    But if other people are getting the message, who did not criticize Google, it would tend to indicate that this is a routine security deal.

    My only question is whether the people who didn’t criticize Google or nitecruzr are being FORCED (as I am) to give up the cell phone number. Dana was allowed to bypass the request. I am not.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  239. This is what I saw when I tried to access Gmail

    Yep.

    Damn, I wish I hadn’t given them my cell now. Damn it to hell.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  240. LOL, Hoystory. Nice move with the Google Voice number.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  241. As to whether Nitecruzr supposedly having authority to speak for Google, SO FRIGGIN’ WHAT????!!!!! Nitecruzr himself made it clear from the start he did NOT speak for Google, so any question of whether he theoretically could have is purely academic. The very first response in the thread stated, and I quote:

    If you started this discussion, just reply here, saying that you’ve read these Guidelines – and we’ll pass your appeal to Blogger.
    [Emphasis added.]

    Does anyone read that last sentence to mean “If you started this discussion, just reply here, saying you’ve read these Guidelines, and Google will pass your appeal to itself?” Really?

    No. I read it as “I, the low-level support person, will pass your appeal to the more specialized people in our organization who can take care of this.

    So, Xrlq, did you have to give your cell phone number?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  242. the “Do you know who I am?” attitude underlying Althouse’s original inquiry.

    I have to admit, when I read “cited by the New York Times” in her post, I was rolling my eyes and thinking about Glenn Greenwald and his magic boyfriend mentioning how he was cited on the Senate floor and what-not. And I like Althouse.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  243. Nitecruzr himself made it clear from the start he did NOT speak for Google,

    This isn’t true.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  244. I didn’t criticize Google but am emailing corporate office regarding this to see what happens.

    Dustin, and what will they do with those phone numbers? It doesn’t seem out of the question that they would use them to canvas/spam for political purposes (or perhaps be the voice of some *official* wavelength for the administration, etc., etc. ) Ridiculous to think at one time yet now, not so much.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  245. I’m tempted to pretend I don’t, just to see what happens when I try to get help

    You will get an automated phone call, where the computerized voice (think GLaDOS from Poral) tells you what the verification code you need is.

    They do not give you a way to contact a real person from the position you are in. You need to be logged in to use the help forums (and will get a Nitecruzr type if you do), and there are no given email addresses or phone numbers.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  246. I still don’t understand why it matters what someone’s status is from a purely customer service standpoint. In that case, the only issue is whether the person helping you can give you the relief you want. If they can’t or won’t, you escalate until you get someone who can.

    I brought it up because I read some to be saying it was obvious by his title that he didn’t represent the company. Or that the terms of service made it obvious he didn’t represent the company.
    I disagree with both of those assertion.

    I agree with you about escalating until you get someone who can help you, but *how* to do that is a different question. The “contact us” button brings you to this one place. He acts as gatekeeper.

    MayBee (081489)

  247. Carlitos, normally I would feel the same way, but the accusation against Ann was that she was running a spam blog. Providing a link to a NYT article referencing her blog as a top legal blog would serve as excellent evidence that it was not a spam blog.

    Hoystory (d0fa8a)

  248. just reply here, saying that you’ve read these Guidelines –

    Keep mind thatone of those “guidelines” required to read contained the following opening paragraph:

    “In 1977, the late Charles Bronson – better known for his vigilante justice “Death Wish” movies – starred in a movie that capitalised on US paranoia about American – Soviet Russia relations. Set at the height of the Cold War era, the plot of Telefon featured 51 human time bombs – all ordinary Americans. Each had been hypnotised to perform as Soviet spies, when a specially coded telephone call was received, with each tasked to sabotage some specific portion of the American infrastructure.”

    carlitos (1596cc)

  249. Have you tried logging off your browser and then re-accessing your Gmail account, or rebooting your computer and seeing if it lets you bypass the Google ban?

    DRJ (fdd243)

  250. I’m thinking it was being speculated or tied in some way to the Sony security breach disclosures, though — certainly not to Prof. Althouse or Blogger in particular.

    I am sure this is true.

    I am equally sure that just as an automated process can flag something, it can be done manually.

    The timing on my personal experience yesterday has caused me to highly suspect that it was done manually.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  251. Hoystory – fair point.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  252. And I disagree that there are only two reasons his status matters.

    I don’t have a gmail account. I don’t have a blogger account. It matters because I hate to see something as big and powerful as Google demonstrate so completely how little it cares- and how easily it allows its representatives to flex the corporate muscles.

    MayBee (081489)

  253. In fact, go and ask him if he speaks for Google. There’s a thread where someone does that (linked above). The idea he’s going out of his way to explain he’s not Google is absurd.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  254. I skimmed the comments so I may duplicate someone’s point. Google is not to be trusted. The owners’ enthusiasm for Obama should warn you about that right away.

    Second, nothing is free. I use gmail to divert spam and other e-mail that I am probably not interested in. I check it every week or so. My blog (no comparison to you or Ann, of course) is hosted on an independent host that charges me about $150 a year. The structure is by Word Press, as is the other place I blog, Chicagboyz.

    The world is a nasty place and the bigger the bad guy gets, the more abusive he will be. That applies to Google in spades. For example, I never use Google for political searches.

    The sentence you were looking for is in Latin. Caveat Emptor.

    Mike K (8f3f19)

  255. Maybee,

    But isn’t there a gatekeeper issue in any customer service matter? If I ask for a manager at a local store or restaurant, someone listens to my concerns but I know for a fact that most of them aren’t *really* managers. They’re simply the employees designated to stand there and listen to complaints. Does it matter? I don’t see why from a customer service standpoint. The only issue is whether they can give me the relief I want.

    As for Google, good luck with that.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  256. Have you tried logging off your browser and then re-accessing your Gmail account, or rebooting your computer and seeing if it lets you bypass the Google ban?

    I will.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  257. In fact, go and ask him if he speaks for Google. There’s a thread where someone does that (linked above).

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/blogger/thread?tid=182b6516fbdda408&hl=en

    carlitos (1596cc)

  258. Patrick – don’t forget to clear your web cache.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  259. Restarted computer. Cleared cache. Still required to provide cell phone. No way to bypass it.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  260. The only issue is whether they can give me the relief I want.

    The other issues are: How do you know if they can give you the relief you want?
    And what if they can’t give you the relief you want, but they can deny you from getting it- or retaliate?
    What can you do to get the relief you want?
    How do you contact the person who can get you relief?

    MayBee (081489)

  261. By the way, Patrick, I do not agree that if there exists someone who did not criticize this headcase that it exonerates him.

    If we find out that a high percentage of all Google users are having this happen, then yes.

    But if only a fraction are, but nearly all of those who have been critical of Google’s handling here are, then no.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  262. Nitecruzr himself made it clear from the start he did NOT speak for Google, so any question of whether he theoretically could have is purely academic.

    Flatly false. He used “we” throughout. Example:

    We are sincerely sorry for any inconvenience which we are causing.

    I found Althouse’s reaction amusingly self-absorbed and self-aggrandizing, I’ll admit. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has read her. And I’ll admit, I don’t read her much.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  263. In other words, for me, this isn’t about Ann Althouse. It’s about Google and how they treated one of their bloggers.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  264. Maybee,

    Aren’t those issues with many large service providers? The internet abounds with people who have similar complaints about cable, phone, and related services.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  265. As for Google, good luck with that.

    What’s the better answer? To keep telling Patterico not to be upset and maybe just hush up?

    MayBee (081489)

  266. Aren’t those issues with many large service providers? The internet abounds with people who have similar complaints about cable, phone, and related services.

    So what?

    MayBee (081489)

  267. Restarted computer. Cleared cache. Still required to provide cell phone. No way to bypass it.

    Comment by Patterico

    Try apologizing to nitecruzr. That might clear it up.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  268. Brian, I follow your drift, and I don’t mean to be dismissive of your argument. But I don’t agree with it.

    First consider actual authority: Did Google (through its responsible corporate directors and officers, typically at the vice-principal level or above) grant the individual known to us as “nitecruzr” with actual legal authority to act as an authorized agent of Google for any purpose?

    That actual authority could be express, as when the board of directors passes a resolution granting formal legal authority on specified matters to a specified extent and on specified terms and conditions.

    That actual authority could also be implied, as when Google hires a customer service representative whose job functions require for their fulfillment that he/she speak and act to customers of Google about their Google-related business or problems.

    Or there could be a combination of express and implied actual authority: If we look, for example, to their customer service manuals or procedures, they may give either broad or specific guidelines about the extent of a customer service rep’s ability to speak and act for the company.

    MayBee asks, quite pertinently, if we’re absolutely sure that nitecruzr is an unpaid volunteer rather than an employee. Answering just for me, I must disclaim any first-hand knowledge whatsoever, and I don’t even have second- or third-hand knowledge of anything specific to nitecruzr. Rather, I’m drawing what I think are reasonable, indeed fairly compelling, inferences that he’s a volunteer based on such things as the differences between his forum signature and Brett’s, the description of nitecruzr as a “top contributor,” and the disclosure in the Terms of Service that Google permits user participation on its Blogger Help Forum, including some users with admin rights, but disclaims any agency relationship. Is it possible that despite these things, nitecruzr has some express written or verbal agreement with Google giving him express authority to speak and act as Google’s agent? Or appointing him to some position which necessarily includes that authority as an implied prerogative necessary for him to do the job? Yeah, it’s possible. But only in the “monkeys may fly out of my butt, too” sort of probability.

    More likely, is there some confidential agreement that all volunteers have to read and sign before they get their admin abilities and special signatures? Yeah, that’s actually quite likely. And it probably includes warnings against impersonating a real Google employee or overstating one’s limited authority. That would be probative on the question of nitecruzr’s actual authority, either express or implied. But if it’s confidential — not posted online, not readily available to anyone but Google and those volunteers — then it may not be effective in limiting such volunteers’ apparent authority as viewed by a third party (like Prof. Althouse).

    So we return, again, to apparent authority. Apparent authority is an equitable principle, a specific application of estoppel, by which the courts may say to a principal (like Google): “Your own acts and conduct could have been foreseen in advance to be likely to lead a reasonable person to believe you have made nitecruzr an agent of Google, authorized to speak and act on its behalf on this topic and in these circumstances.”

    By itself, nothing that nitecruzr himself has said or done — as the purported apparent agent — can be a basis for a claim of apparent authority. He may write in all his posts “I’m secretly the CEO and a substantial shareholder in Google, and I have authority to vanish your blog if it pleases me.” That is literally no proof that nitecruzr has any authority, much less the authority of a corporate CEO.

    So what, here, has Google actually done to cloak nitecruzr in apparent authority? Well, he can post on the Blogger Help Forum. But so, too, can everyone else with a valid Google account. So his posting privileges prove nothing.

    His signature — presumably created and vetted by some software screenname creation subroutine that would have bounced his attempt to create a signature like Brett’s — does have some unusual language, which we’ve discussed. And it’s fair to say that his signature titling can be attributed to the principal (Google). But none of that language can only be explained by an assumption that nitecruzr is an authorized agent of Google. Instead, it’s at least equally consistent — and, I would argue, objectively far more consistent — with a competing inference, specifically, that nitecruzr is the sort of high-output volunteer user mentioned in the disclaimer in the Terms of Use. Or, for those who skip the fine print (even though the law still holds you responsible for that which you’ve skipped reading), the sort of high-output volunteer user who’s free to post unmoderated advice and feedback unless and until his posting privileges are terminated.

    With due respect, I don’t think the evidence on that is sufficiently conflicting to raise a fact issue on whether Google has cloaked nitecruzr with apparent authority to speak and act on its behalf.

    But even if it were, Prof. Althouse would still have to show a material change in position to her detriment based on her (purportedly) reasonable assumption that nitecruzr had such authority, and based upon some material misrepresentation of a matter of objective fact. I think as a matter of law — that is, something that the judge takes from the factfinder’s authority to decide — the disclaimer is going to be fatal to the “reasonableness” argument, but even if it’s not, Prof. Althouse still had to change her position to her detriment.

    If — based on a factual misrepresentation by nitecruzr — Prof. Althouse had publicly renounced blogging, promised the Wisconsin Law School faculty senate that she’d never blog again, divorced Meade, and burned/erased all her backup copies of her old posts (which somehow had also become unrecoverable), then maybe she could win with apparent authority.

    But she didn’t. And indeed, usually the material and detrimental change in position that justifies an apparent authority finding comes from the decision to do business with the principal through the (purported) agent. As in, “I thought that door-to-door salesman was an authorized agent for ElectroLux because when I called their home office, they faxed me a copy of his company photo ID and it matched the guy in my living room. But if they had only told me instead that he was actually fired for lying to customers and forging orders, I never would have bought that vacuum cleaner ElectroLux is suing me for not paying for.”

    I’m not even going to start on all the reasons why this couldn’t form a plausible defamation claim even if you could jump through the agency hoops to hold Google liable for nitecruzr’s statements.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  269. In fact, go and ask him if he speaks for Google. There’s a thread where someone does that (linked above). The idea he’s going out of his way to explain he’s not Google is absurd.

    I agree, and that harms the credibility of Xrlq’s rant. (Xrlq, by the way, is an old friend of the blog.) I would still like to know whether he was REQUIRED to provide a phone number, or merely requested to, as Dana was. I am being REQUIRED to. Otherwise I am locked out.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  270. Still required to provide cell phone.

    If this happens to a low % of google users, a sizable portion of whom have commented about the blogger problem, this creeps me out.

    If this happens to a high % of google users, this creeps me out due to the scale of the cell phone #’s that google is accumulating.

    If this happens to a low % of google users, and it’s not at all correlated to the blogger problem, I guess I’m OK, BUT:

    Patrick – is there a ToS or any disclaimer on the page asking for your phone #? Maybe one that says “We at google will never store your cell phone # or use it for marketing purposes or sell it” etc.? Is this covered in some broader google ToS somewhere, and if so can someone find it? I gave my bank my phone # for authentication, but I want them to have it. Google – not so much.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  271. “We at google will never store your cell phone # or use it for marketing purposes or sell it”

    I looked for one. There was not.

    I provided feedback (through their forum ‘report abuse’ functions) telling them that I wanted my number purged.

    I am confident that someone unaffiliated with Google, such as nitecruzr, handled that abuse notification.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  272. Exactly, Carlitos.

    If Google is just collecting everyone’s phone, that’s just evil in a different direction.

    I’m seeing a claim from Google that unusual activity was detected. That is not possible for a large percentage of google’s users, if I’m still up to date on what ‘unusual’ means.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  273. Patrick – is there a ToS or any disclaimer on the page asking for your phone #?

    This is an extremely good question. What’s to protect someone from their number being sold?

    Dustin (c16eca)

  274. Maybee,

    I think it is reasonable to compare Google to other large service providers like phone and cable companies because they all seem to have large numbers of dissatisfied customers. Perhaps it’s because they have so many customers and thus there are more people complaining. Or it could be that we consumers are more impatient when it comes to things like phone, cable and internet service and we are more likely to complain at disruptions.

    But perhaps I’ve missed your point. If so, could you elaborate so I will understand?

    DRJ (fdd243)

  275. I had a screenshot of the entire message in the post.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  276. “Your own acts and conduct could have been foreseen in advance to be likely to lead a reasonable person to believe you have made nitecruzr an agent of Google, authorized to speak and act on its behalf on this topic and in these circumstances.”

    Well.

    For this to be applicable, one of two things must be true.

    Either I am not a reasonable person, or it was unforeseeable that his actions would lead someone like me to conclude he is authorized to speak and act on its behalf on this topic and in these circumstances. They have given him the keys to the shop in regards to filtering in reports of problems.

    I personally believe myself to be reasonable. Your mileage may vary.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  277. And what if they can’t give you the relief you want, but they can deny you from getting it- or retaliate?

    Retaliation is the concern. It would seem we are already seeing it in its early stage – requiring phone numbers for those who have complained. Asking for it from others who haven’t. What next?

    Dana (4eca6e)

  278. I had a screenshot of the entire message in the post.

    Sorry, Patrick, I didn’t see the screencap the first time I saw your post. Even so, the “learn more about your support options” link is one that you can see, but I can’t see it from a screencap. Maybe there is some language at that link?

    carlitos (1596cc)

  279. Since discussion of the principal topic seems to be finished, at least temporarily… I have other e.mail options available; any suggestions about the feed reader I should turn to when Google becomes intolerable for whatever reason?

    marcpuck (c5630e)

  280. But perhaps I’ve missed your point. If so, could you elaborate so I will understand?

    This whole thread is about Google. I see no reason to go off on a discussion about all other customer service organizations.
    Perhaps Patterico will post a thread about all of them.

    I will add that I have said several times that Google’s political power bothers me, and thus their actions bother me a little bit more, especially now, in a thread about Google.

    MayBee (081489)

  281. I understand. Sorry to have bothered you, Maybee. It won’t happen again.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  282. Sorry; am getting sleepy, I guess, and was thinking that the 14th was yesterday.

    marcpuck (c5630e)

  283. I understand. Sorry to have bothered you, Maybee. It won’t happen again.

    Is this really DRJ?

    If it is, you aren’t bothering me and I don’t know why you’ say it won’t happen again.

    I just don’t get why, in the middle of this discussion, you seem to be asking *me* why I’m focusing on Google’s bad behavior and not on the way other companies act.

    MayBee (081489)

  284. His name is Chuck Croll.

    https://profiles.google.com/nitecruzr/about?hl=en

    I invite the internets to find out a bit more about this sorry individual.

    Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nitecruzr

    It also appears he created himself a wikipedia article that was rapidly deleted: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:0YYAnhyNNl8J:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Croll+%22chuck+croll%22&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

    His Name (1063a1)

  285. The inter tubes are grumpy recently.

    JD (395555)

  286. @ Patterico (#223): I’ll be more specific in my speculation. Suppose in 2010, Google’s volunteers like nitecruzr with admin privileges had an option to “flag” accounts of users whom they considered abusive, spammers, etc. Suppose that as then set up, Google’s software simply compiled a list of all such “flags” for a customer service employee to review and act upon in accordance with company policies, and (because he’s an employee) subject to company discipline for violations thereof.

    Suppose in April, Google said, “OMG, looking at Sony’s problems, we’re going ahead with Security Revision No. 832.2189(b)/R9.” Suppose as part of that package, the company went to a “better safe than sorry” mode in which every account which is flagged in any way, even by one of the volunteers like nitecruzr, automatically becomes blocked unless its unlocked with the cell phone confirmation routine. And due to oversight, rush, human error, whatever, no one at Google realized that this change effectively increased massively the abuse potential of such flaggings by volunteers.

    On that scenario — which is entirely speculative, but not crazy wild or malicious — nitecruzr may not even have known what the ramifications to your account might be from his “flagging.”

    Maybe this series of posts will alert Google to the (in my hypothesis) new potential for abuse, and then to correct it.

    I spin this just as an example of why I’d want to know the broader context of their recent security changes before drawing inferences about the sudden requirement that you give them a phone number. I basically don’t think we can rule out innocent incompetence.

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  287. recently?

    carlitos (1596cc)

  288. The inter tubes are grumpy recently.

    I’m sorry if it’s me being grumpy. I love DRJ.

    MayBee (081489)

  289. Me too.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  290. On that scenario — which is entirely speculative, but not crazy wild or malicious — nitecruzr may not even have known what the ramifications to your account might be from his “flagging.”

    I was with you right up to this point.

    It may be lawyerly to presume there is the possibility that Chuck did not understand the nature of the power he wielded. I would suggest to you that this is highly unlikely to be the case. That guy could give training lessons to their new hires.

    Enigmaticore (491183)

  291. Moreso recently, Carlitos. No?

    JD (395555)

  292. I think you’re right JD. It might be confirmation bias, like when I look up and see the full moon, and think that’s why the hairy knuckles, but yeah, you might be right.

    I’d be very keen to see what google privacy / ToS statements apply to the cell phone thing. Very keen.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  293. I did not mean you in particular, MayBee. You know I heart you. And DRJ. I was just making a general observation.

    JD (395555)

  294. Are hairy knuckles caused by the same thing that causes hairy palms?

    JD (395555)

  295. I’m double-jointed, so it’s hard to tell.

    carlitos (1596cc)

  296. Now 5 people have been banned for criticizing nitecruzr.

    I wonder what Google Lovers like Beldar and DRJ will say about this one?

    Val Hollah (39846a)

  297. There is no reason to be a dick, Val.

    JD (395555)

  298. New post highlighting my getting locked out of Google and Gmail here.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  299. Val,

    Beldar and DRJ are respected commenters here. We evidently don’t see eye to eye on this Google issue, but they have earned the right to be treated with politeness over the years. Please give it to them.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  300. Nitecruzer seems to be an interesting character. I don’t doubt that he is a volunteer, and I have run across many unpaid moderators / support people before who are quite zealous in performing their jobs. Here’s what I’m getting from this:

    The forum is an official Google forum. Google controls who is able to post there and sets up administrator / moderator / operator etc privileges. Nitecruzer is being a jerk and is abusing his powers. Regardless of his not being on the Google payroll, Google gave him his powers, and Google is the only one who can reverse what he has done. Therefore, Google should apologize for giving this egomaniac power and demote him from admin status, or it risks appearing to condone Nitecruzer behavior.

    OmegaPaladin (a63d4d)

  301. Val, DRJ explained why she doesn’t use google. She’s no shill for Google, for goodness sake.

    What’s the point of a discussion, if everyone agrees?

    Dustin (c16eca)

  302. I think Beldar should next go to Aaron Worthing’s thread about the Sony Playstation Network.

    I just read the Terms of Service for Sony and they specifically absolve themselves of any liability for harm caused by such a breach as the one Sony sustained.

    Thus, Aaron has no right to criticize Sony. It’s all right there in the ToS, after all!

    If Aaron wanted better service, maybe he should have read the ToS more closely. Or bought a Wii.

    Val Hollah (39846a)

  303. DRJ- if you are here, please know I adore you.

    MayBee (081489)

  304. Not sure when it happened, but my (mostly innactive) blog is gone (but name reserved). Mostly conservative / libertarian positions as well.

    http://khemenu.blogspot.com

    Ari Tai (0f2c4b)

  305. Patterico, I don’t think there’s a huge gap between you and me on this. We have different judgments on a matter of degree — the degree to which nitecruzr’s bad acts and words can be attributed to Google. I’ve enjoyed the discussion — with you, with our mutual friend DRJ, and with your other commenters — and I’ve taken no umbrage at any part of it. And certainly the respect you describe, and generously insist upon, is mutual.

    Val: I wouldn’t characterize myself as a Google-lover, but in this instance I can see how someone might come to that conclusion if my comments here were all anyone knew about me. I do admire a lot of what Google has done, and I acknowledge them as a powerful player in the modern world. But I certainly think Google ought only be blamed for that which is genuinely their own doing. Patterico agrees with that notion, I’m sure; we simply disagree about whether, or how much, of what nitecruzr has done and said may fairly be attributed to Google in addition to him. I wouldn’t bother arguing such details with someone I didn’t respect; and I enjoy building and refining an argument against such a capable advocate and thinker (or, as is often the case here, a series of such capable advocates and thinkers, including many non-lawyers).

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  306. Beldar,

    I still have no proof of a single person who was REQUIRED to give their cell phone number who did not criticize nitecruzr. And of the tiny group who did — maybe, what? one or two dozen people? — I am aware of five people who had their accounts shut down.

    I am not a conspiracy theorist, but this is odd. My account was shut down maybe 2 hours after I challenged nitecruzr.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  307. I use my Google account infrequently (I get my mail through a yahoo account). Just logged on to google. My cell phone was requested, but not demanded.

    FYI

    roy in nipomo (bca582)

  308. Someone else told me the same thing, roy in nipomo. I can’t say who, but that makes 5 people who have said they were asked who didn’t criticize Google, and of those 5, 3 have clearly said they were not required to give it.

    My account said I had suspicious activity and I was required to give it. Sorry, I don’t buy that this is normal.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  309. Is there NOTHING this Obama/Google alliance won’t stoop to?

    Apparently, their rage has consumed content not only from the NYT cited Althouse, but lots of parents and grandparents who want to share animal pics with their family.

    One can only assume that they were discovered to have voted against Obama.

    http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=24069595&postID=4590179586127414216

    eli (feea19)

  310. Yes, eli, Blogger went down. We get it.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  311. AND, It gave to same suspicious page saying it was deleted.

    http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2011/05/blog-owners-report-disabled-blogger.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Nitecruzr-Blogging+%28The+Real+Blogger+Status%29

    Just because ya’ll were wring that Ann had been targeted:
    a. it was labelled spam, unlike the other outages (wrong)
    b. they admitted it (wrong)
    c. hers was the only content still missing (wrong)

    … doesn’t mean changing the subject to the new shiny thing (phone # confirmation) will hide that.

    eli (feea19)

  312. @ j curtis How does a conservative government ‘shut down’ a publicly held corporation in a way consistent with conservative ideology? Seems a lot of private investors would be grumpy about their assets being forfeit… almost like…

    eli (feea19)

  313. I got a message asking for my cell phone number last year when I got really annoyed when Blogger changed the design platform making it much more difficult to change the blog colors and fonts. It was a little bit scary, especially since I don’t even HAVE a cell phone, and I was just trying to opt out of their “improvements.” I did nothing and my access was restored quickly. It’s probably to prevent the same person from posting under multiple names.

    Nitecruzr is on the Google help forums every day, with usually helpful advice to people. He also has his own blog with a LOT of good information. He has helped me a couple of times. There are MILLIONS of blogs and according to some statistics, about half of them are spam blogs. Anyone can report a blog as a spam blog. There is a button at the top of the page, “report abuse.” I assume all reports are investigated by someone.

    Because of the millions of blogs and the millions of problems that Google might have, there are help forums set up and are largely staffed by volunteers. Nitecruzr is a volunteer. Blogger is a free service. I assume it’s a way to keep Blogger free. Nitecruzr had no way of knowing that Ann was an IMPORTANT blogger when he gave his generic initial answer and links. It was a really difficult situation because Google was in the middle of a meltdown with none of the bloggers being able to post and visitors unable to comment. It was tense. In my four years as a blogger, it was the first time such a failure had occurred.

    I’m not a lawyer or an intellectual genius. But it seems to me that a lot of people were under a huge amount of stress in a really hairy situation which had never occurred before. I understand why people would be upset, but gee, think about it. Ann was distraught. I thought it was (what??!!)20 million posts gone. Nitecruzr had been handling complaints for hours. Google employees were trying to stabilize the situation and get millions of blogs working again.

    The only arguments on this thread that seem reasonable to me are the ones made by Beldar and if I ever needed a lawyer, I’d hope to get that kind of level-headedness. This whole thing is totally blown out of proportion.

    I’d never heard of Ann Althouse before I happened to notice a thread on the help forum while looking for something else. I later read the thread AFTER nitecruzr’s other comments were deleted and was puzzled~~but on that forum, anyone can delete his/her OWN comments at any time. Nitecruzr’s many posts and hours spent there have evidently gotten him privileges that those of us who have posted our way accidentally to Level 1 or 2, don’t have.

    The complaints on that forum this afternoon were coming in at a rate of one every two or three minutes. Sure, real customer service would be nice, but it isn’t realistic. It’s the internet. It’s not like we’re PAYING for Google. My blog post from May 12 is still missing. I just redid it. So the problems are still not completely fixed.

    It seems to me that this big attack on Nitecruzr for being rude under duress is unfair. And this probably will not be a very welcome comment, but I’ve seen plenty of lawyers being rude and unreasonable under much less stessful conditions.

    I don’t usually comment on such “big-time” blogs but as I’ve become a little intrigued by this story and the attacks on a volunteer helper, I thought as an occasional user of the help forum, that I might shed a little bit of light on a volatile situation.

    Kate (13eecd)

  314. @ Kate That’s all very reasonable, but what about the sinister conspiracy part of it?!!!! jk (you seem nice.)

    eli (feea19)

  315. Lawyers being rude? Surely you jest!

    (To which your response, Kate, ought to be “Yes, they were, and stop calling me ‘Shirley’!”)

    Beldar (7c0dd5)

  316. @Eli Well,as a pretty distant onlooker who reads news but doesn’t really follow political blogs, I would be surprised if there is really a conspiracy going on here. The comment that Leiter guy quoted from his “anonymous” friend was pretty snarky and I guess one could theorize that someone might have hit the “report abuse” button to be disruptive. But I’ve seen many people complain about their blogs being removed as “spam” and that’s a really common complaint on the help forum. I have no way of knowing but my hunch would be that in all the confusion of this major malfunction, some mistakes might have been made, either in pulling a blog reported as “spam,” or once that happened, I can imagine that the rollback to an earlier stable point might have made it difficult to put back the archived posts.

    I don’t think Google is perfect, but I can imagine that this meltdown has pretty well rattled their tech support team. Maybe it will motivate them to thoroughly test upgrades before inflicting them on the internet at large. Each giant company has its unexpected failures in this technical age. I think it’s almost inevitable. Maybe the Peter Principle applies here as well. Maybe there’s even a techno name for that.

    I don’t think that people charged with pulling these blogs necessarily READ them carefully and for some reason, very large blogs seem to signal a problem. I’m not an expert on spam blogs and to me it seems like a waste of time.

    But to assume this is some kind of personal vendetta against Ann’s blog or her political beliefs or her followers seems pretty far-fetched to me.

    Mainly, I just want to say that over several years, I’ve seen Nitecruzr’s name many many times in a helpful capacity on the forums and I think it takes a special kind of person to be willing to do what he and other top volunteers there do. That isn’t saying he’s always right or that he wasn’t showing some teeth in the thread with Ann.

    I sincerely hope that she gets all her posts back but a visit to that help forum will show that lots of people are still having problems as a result of that malfunction and the the rollback.

    Really when all this first started, before I even saw the plea for help from Ann, I had the thought that all the desperate and angry complaints from users of this free service were probably making a tense situation even worse. It’s understandable because we’re all used to having what we have and what we want and it usually works fine. But it’s a little bit like the lady whose car died in traffic and the guy behind her was beeping his horn at her. She got out of her car and walked back and said, “Sir, if you’ll get up there and fix my car, I’ll sit back here and honk your horn.”

    It’s really rather amazing just HOW many people have been affected in some small or large way by this unexpected failure at Blogger.

    Kate (13eecd)

  317. @Beldar :-)))

    Kate (13eecd)

  318. Poor, poor nitecruzr.

    Misunderstood, he is.

    Time to insult Kate, get her to react negatively to my insults, and then delete my taunts. To make her look stupid for responding to nothing.

    Because that’s what good, honest folks like nitecruzr do.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  319. Oh, and LAWYERS!!!

    Patterico (c218bd)

  320. It seems to me that this big attack on Nitecruzr for being rude under duress is unfair.

    How about this big attack on Nitecruzr for being dishonest?

    And how about his flagging a bunch of people’s accounts just for disagreeing with him? Hey, that’s cool, because while he may be a prick who is misusing the powers granted him by Google, at least he’s not a lawyer!!!

    Patterico (c218bd)

  321. Yes, #287 is right: His name is Chuck Croll, started w/ Google Help in Sept. 08.
    https://profiles.google.com/nitecruzr?hl=en#nitecruzr/about
    Check out the other links on this link.

    Occupied Territory (db4752)

  322. Animal rights idiots should mine their own buisness.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  323. Anyways google are useful idiots.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  324. Oops: make that #285 is correct. My bad.

    Occupied Territory (db4752)

  325. The important question isn’t nitecruiser but whether Google restores the Althouse archives, or are the zillion posts lost to that blog.

    That’s the genuine test of what Google thinks its users are worth.

    They willingly created that loss as collateral damage to make recovery technically easier; now will they do the corresponding work to recover them.

    I suspect it varies with the Google employee.

    rhhardin (42abfc)

  326. Beldar, I thought you were a lawyer, yet you seem to be arguing that no relationship can exist between two entities absent the exchange of money.

    The operative word here is “us”. If a link on a Google page says “write us” it is perfectly reasonable to assume that “us” means Google and that the person you connect with represents them.

    Frankly, I think you’re being deliberately obtuse.

    creeper (f1f686)

  327. Patrick…

    I got the phone screen from Google also, on Thursday. I didn’t enter a number in the blank. Just clicked “Save and continue” and it went right through. Have you tried that?

    creeper (f1f686)

  328. really, people still use blogger? you get what you pay for. althouse should have moved to her own domain and hosting years ago, instead decided to blog on the cheap.

    don’t cry when you put all your eggs in someone else’s basket and they get broken.

    tgs (b726c5)

  329. And once again, apparent authority cannot come from the alleged agent’s own assertions or actions; apparent authority can only be conferred by actions or statements of the principal itself.

    Apparently nitecruzer has admin privileges over google accounts. Those don’t appear by magic, someone at google had to elevate his account to some sort of superuser account. How is that not an action by the principal (google)? The fact that he has these powers indicates to me that he is acting on googles behalf with their authority regardless of whatever disclaimer they post.

    chad (582404)

  330. creeper,

    That’s a different screen. I got a notice of unusual activity. No option to save and continue. See the screenshot.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  331. It is virtually impossible to get help when you have a problem at Blogger. All of their pages lead you back to “help groups” that don’t help, and some of the links are dead.

    The only way to get it fast is to google the question and find some site like nitecruzr’s – and then your question is not private but splashed all over the internet from then on.

    Nitecruzr is usually knowledgeable – and curt but this latest thing is outrageously bad, the tone is so outrageously nasty – the guy has issues, and he should be removed from customer service.

    Even if Althouse was a spammer – the approach should never be to assume the customer is wrong right off the bat – and in this case where it is so obviously wrong, you have to wonder what is wrong with this guy.

    I’m not buying that they are trying to shut Althouse down.

    Something happened – a glitch – in their ‘restore’ process – and it should have been approached from that angle and they should be working overtime to find it and fix it – now smearing and slamming Ann.

    They need some serious re-vamping of their whole customer service thing – way more than anything else.

    Rose (13d715)

  332. At the core of all of this is the question that as far as I am concerned still has not been answered:

    If google, (which is their right) chooses to use volunteers/agents to handle some administrative functions and to be the first voice in the “contact us” process–but also have a few paid google/blogger employees with additional authority—then how the heck does one ever get to Brett the Blogger guy without going through the nitecruisers of the world first? Especially when the nitecruisers seem to have total control of the gate and refuse to open it?

    (Brett from the Blogger team, who apparently finally helped Althouse was discussed above in comment #31)

    elissa (94c92e)

  333. @ elisa It seems in this case like nitecruzr escalated the issue, and then a bit later (presumably when he got to it) Brett was the agent of the follow up. Just in this case people convinced themselves that google had targeted Ann for political reasons (a thesis which nobody seems to be defending anymore- though they are cagey about admitting that), so they freaked out.

    eli (feea19)

  334. My congratulations to Beldar for totally hijacking this issue and sending it off in a totally meaningless direction.

    The issue is not legal fine points, it’s whether someone would be wise to trust anything of importance, such as an email or blogging account, to Google under these circumstances.

    Marty (05a4f3)

  335. Hmmmm.

    @ Beldar

    WTF is going on with you? Here’s a helpful clue: you’re being an ass.

    If this is your contribution then please, don’t contribute any more.

    memomachine (d2fee4)

  336. Hmmm.

    @ Patterico & all

    If you want a prime example of this kind of unpaid volunteer going power-mad when representing a major corporation; look at the antics of unpaid volunteers for Massively Multiplayer games & corporations.

    It is frankly amazing the kinds of insane antics these twits were able to get into while volunteering to/for a corporation. The corporations and games? Well pretty much all of them but primarily Ultima Online & Everquest.

    memomachine (d2fee4)

  337. I think the term that people are searching for is “agency.” Can someone who has been given a privileged status by Google and who is a primary point of contact if an issue arises be considered an agent? In my business (financial services) the answer is yes. Patterico says that there is no other way of contacting Google except through its website which leads directly to people that Google has empowered to respond to customer inquiries. In my view that makes these people agents, irrespective of any disclaimers in the terms of the agreement.

    Moneyrunner (8f100c)

  338. I was one of those who criticized Nitecruzr and filed an abuse report. I didn’t put it together that Google was requesting my cell number because of this until I read your report. Now it makes sense. Thanks for posting the details on Google’s bad behavior.

    J Richardson (c63d31)

  339. J Richardson, I suggest you email the host (Patterico at gmail dot com) and let him know this happened to you as well.

    memomachine, sure, Beldar was arguing a finer point than most of us were paying attention to, but he argued it in good faith. He showed respect to those who disagreed with him because he’s a classy guy. Big picture is that this obviously should embarrass Google and keep anyone from trusting them in the future. Beldar recommends leaving Blooger for Typepad, IIRC.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  340. Dustin

    I am not sure patrick has reconnected that email yet, though.

    I’ll flag it via twitter message.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  341. Well, Patterico checked his outbox to make sure he didn’t send anything to ‘Dental Plans’, so I think he’s in. But regardless, seems like a decent update.

    How many people who actually criticized Nitecruzr didn’t run into this?

    Dustin (c16eca)

  342. Nitecruzr himself made it clear from the start he did NOT speak for Google

    That’s not the case at all, though he made plain he was not the final word on anything.

    Even in his volunteer capacity he’s an agent for Google if invested with any powers to work at Google’s direction on Google’s behalf, even if he has a minimum level of authority.
    He stated his authority to “escalate” complaints, remove posts from support threads, and to make recommendations that an account be handled one way or another.

    SarahW (af7312)

  343. Kate, Google offers blogger for it’s own business ends. In partnership with bloggers they might make a profit or loss, but it does provide an income stream and other benefits for Google.

    They enter into agreements with users of the Blogger service that bind and obligate Blogger/Google – and one of those implied is a duty to act reasonably and not to permanently block/destroy an account for a violation of Bloggers rules, when there has been no violation.

    Nitecruzer is acting as an agent for Google even in his volunteer capacity.

    SarahW (af7312)

  344. Would you want the likes of Nitecruzer between you and your cloud-stored data? I don’t think I would.

    SarahW (af7312)

  345. hey guys, patrick’s email is up, somehow. i don’t know if he gave out his phone number or what, but the point is if you had a similar experience, email patrick and/or me and tell us about it.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)


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