Do No Evil, My Ass

On March 11, I was informed by Google that this site had been removed from its index.  Here's the text of what I received:

From: Google
Subject: Removal from Google's Index
Date: March 11, 2009
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Dear site owner or webmaster of,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here: This appears to be because your site has been modified by a third party. Typically, the offending party gains access to an insecure directory that has open permissions. Many times, they will upload files or modify existing ones, which then show up as spam in our index.

The following is some example hidden text we found at

Alprazolam Tafil Alprazolam And Alcohol Alprazolam Fedex Alprazolam Overnight Alprazolam Dosage Alprazolam Addiction Alprazolam Overdose Purchase Alprazolam Buy Alprazolam Online Alprazolam Xr Alprazolam Xanax 2mg Alprazolam Kill You Alprazolam Grapefruit Juice Alprazolam 25mg Alprazolam Extended Release Alprazolam Abuse Anxiety Alprazolam What Does Alprazolam Look Like Alprazolam Card Master Alprazolam Half Life Xanax Buy 2mg Alprazolam Alprazolam 2mg Picture Alprazolam And Pregnancy 2mg Alprazolam Online Pharmacy Alprazolam Buy Cheap Alprazolam Vs Lorazepam Alprazolam Degradation Photo Alprazolam Pic Acne Alprazolam Cause Alprazolam Free Prescription

In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from are scheduled to be removed temporarily from our search results for at least 30 days.

We would prefer to keep your pages in Google's index. If you wish to be reconsidered, please correct or remove all pages (may not be limited to the examples provided) that are outside our quality guidelines. One potential remedy is to contact your web host technical support for assistance. For more information about security for webmasters, see When such changes have been made, please visit to learn more and submit your site for reconsideration.

Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team

It's not like this site is a commercial enterprise, but I like people to be able to find me (and certain things I've written) when they look for me on Google.  So this is kind of a big deal, but nothing Earth-shattering like losing thousands of dollars in ad revenue or anything like that.

What makes this situation infuriating is that, much like when I was a part of the AdSense program, Google likes to point out problems but not tell people where they found those problems.  If you recall, I ditched AdSense because Google sent me a similar e-mail in which they claimed they witnessed fraudulent click activity on my site but wouldn't give me specifics.   I was left wondering not just how to fix the problem, but what the problem was to begin with.  Furthermore, Google likes to keep people at arm's length and refuse to answer questions or address issues.  They want you to fix what's "wrong" and when it suits them, they might reconsider your participation in the program.  When they get around to it.

Turns out that I did spot a piece of comment spam that managed to sneak through Akismet.  It looked similar to what was identified above, and I killed it.  But it's one of tens of thousands of comment spams I get in any particular month.  The notion that if a single one happens to slide through at around the same time that Google's spiders visit my site, I could have my entire site de-listed is just plain silly.

You may recall that in 2006 I posted something about a panel I participated in at the Hyperlinked Society Conference at Annenberg.  That was the one where I asked people to consider that there was an evil side to Google's attribution of value to links, and that comment spam was a manifestation about this.  Basically, my argument was that if links have value (and they do), then there will be people who try to game the system, which presents us with a metric shitload of problems.  I took some heat from Jeff Jarvis when it came time for Q&A, and if I recall correctly, he said Google's democratization of links was the best thing to ever happen to the hyperlink.

But what about when we don't feel like participating in the arms race anymore?

Over the few years I've been blogging, I've upgraded my content management system countless times, including two major overhauls when I switched from Blogger to Movable Type and then from Movable Type to Wordpress.  I've tried countless anti-spam plugins, captcha mechanisms, and schemes to keep the comment spammers from loading up my site with ads for boner pills, Mexican pharmacies and the DRTV products du jour.  And I'm really tired of it.  I have a few choices here:

  1. Continue the arms race. Go find more anti-spam plugins.  Keep upgrading.  Let the technology distract from the content.  (Not an option anymore.  Sorry.)
  2. Turn comments off. (Not an option.  Turn comments off and it's no longer a blog.)
  3. Just let Google have its way with me. Looks like my only real option.

What's ironic about this whole situation is that comment spammers are entirely Google's creation.  If Google never devised PageRank to begin with, comment spammers wouldn't exist.  I wouldn't have spambots crawling all over it constantly, trying to find a way in to advertise boner pills.  I wouldn't have to put time into protecting my site from spam.  In a way, Google is blaming me and penalizing me for a problem IT created.  To add insult to injury, it's being standoffish about cooperating in a meaningful way toward resolving the issue.  ('Yeah, just deal with your temporary 30-day suspension.  Do a deep-dive investigation of everything on your site and just PRAY that you caught the particular thing we found on your site that we found objectionable.  Otherwise you'll have to resubmit for reconsideration.')

In conclusion...

"Do No Evil," my ass.