WordPress, Stop the Arbitrary Suspensions

As many of you no doubt noticed, The Mad Reviewer was not available yesterday.  It was ‘either archived or suspended for a violation of the terms of service.’  I’ll explain what went down.

At 8:00am I logged onto my WordPress account to check to see if my Othello review had gone up nicely and that there were no unnoticed spelling mistakes.  When the page loaded I found the exact same message everyone else did: that my blog was either archived or suspended.  I followed the link to the dashboard and it said that The Mad Reviewer had been suspended for a violation of the terms of service of WordPress.  So I re-read the terms of service and followed the link to appeal my suspension because I absolutely did not violate the terms of service.

I sent an email to WordPress around 8:15am on Monday.  I had absolutely no response from WordPress until 2:26pm on Tuesday, over 24 hours later.  Until then I had no access to my posts, my stats or the forums.  I took the step of exporting my blog just in case WordPress decided to be total jerks and permanently suspend it.  Honestly, I was in a bit of a panic because I’m still waiting to hear from publishers about some ARC requests.  If they saw my blog was down, there was no way I’d get approved.  Thankfully this didn’t affect me in that way but I was seriously considering other hosting options at this point.

It sounds ridiculous to get angry over something as trivial as a blog, but I was extremely pissed off that two years of pouring my heart and soul into daily posting was taken away in an instant with no warning whatsoever.  I finally got an explanation from WordPress support at 2:26pm:

Hi there,

Thank you for getting in touch. Your site was flagged by our automated anti-spam controls. We have reviewed your site and have removed the suspension notice.

Please be sure to clear your browser’s cache and, if necessary, restart the browser.
http://en.support.wordpress.com/browser-issues/#clear-your-cache-and-cookies

We greatly apologize for this error and any inconvenience it may have caused.

Seriously, WordPress?  How about you not have automatic anti-spam controls that have been known to flag perfectly legitimate blogs and suspend them automatically?  How about you have someone approve suspensions at their discretion so that legitimate blogs aren’t suddenly taken off the face of the internet and suffer stats-wise and follower-wise.  Or you just have that handy ‘report spam’ button that’s on the top of every WordPress task bar for a blog and use that to find spam blogs.

I’m happy that you all stuck with me through the random suspension, but it could have been a lot worse as I’d been reading of cases where WordPress did not get back to people in upwards of a week.  A week!  Yes, I know WordPress is a free platform and they can do whatever they like.  However, people who use the service (free or not) deserve a little due process, not a guilty until proven innocent approach.

So basically, sorry for the confusion guys.  I’m glad you stuck with me through it.

23 comments

  1. Jack Flacco

    I know the feeling. It happened to me last March and it felt like someone had ripped my heart out and thrown it to the zombies. In my case, within a couple of hours after contacting them, WordPress fixed the problem. I didn’t feel the impact as much–but I’ll tell ya–those couple of hours had me heartbroken. It was a devastating experience that has affected my writing since.

    Nonetheless, glad you’re back, up and around and kicking, Carrie!

    • Carrie Slager

      When I searched around the internet for other blogs that had been suspended, I’ve found this is a relatively new thing with WordPress, mainly happening in 2013. That’s unfortunate but I’m glad I got my site back within less than 48 hours and you got yours back in a couple of hours. Still, it’s a little disconcerting that you could lose all that work in the blink of an eye because of a filter glitch.

  2. Tammy Sparks

    What scares me about this is that you didn’t do anything wrong. I also have a free wp blog and now I’m worried! It makes me want to go back and reread the terms of service. Sorry this happened to you Carrie!

    • Carrie Slager

      I can’t honestly say not to worry about your blog being suspended because it seems to be becoming more and more common. The best thing to do is contact support through the link they provide right away and just wait. Even if you don’t violate the ToS you can still get your blog taken away in the blink of an eye like I did.

  3. Caleb Flanagan

    I’m going to sound like a jerk, but this needs to be said anyways. There is a legitimate reason that companies like WordPress have automated anti-spam filters. There are literally thousands upon thousands of scamming, spamming, and crooked websites that get created daily on platforms such as WordPress, Blogger, and others. The only way to effectively and efficiently fight against these websites which WILL do real harm to real people is to use automated systems.

    Relying upon the individual user to report bad websites or spam has been proven time and time again to be a useless enterprise. Using a real person to approve every flagged website or account is also exceptionally inefficient and costs far too much money at the expense of the individuals who will be harmed by these bad websites.

    Should your blog have been flagged and temporarily suspended? No, of course not, any sane individual that has been here before knows that you aren’t doing anything harmful or untoward here on this site. Why did it happen? Simply because no automated system is perfect, and the algorithms will always make a mistake every so often. That’s the risk you run by having an online presence because for the legitimate good of everyone, these systems exist to keep everyone safe from the people out there trying to do them harm.

    Count yourself lucky that you received a response from the support group at WordPress as quickly as you did and carry on with the good work you do here. Getting the situation resolved in less than 72 hours speaks rather highly to how well WordPress has implemented their support staff in taking care of these kind of issues. I’m sure as soon as WordPress saw the ticket as the next one in the queue the person quickly took a look at the content here, realized the automated system had made a mistake, and restored things. I’d be willing to bet that they also tagged your website to be ignored by the automated system in the future.

    /end rant by the devil’s advocate who works on the internet for a living

    • Carrie Slager

      You’ve brought up some good points Caleb, but the number of false positives WordPress does get is getting ridiculous. I know it’s not perfect and that they do catch a lot of scammers, but it wouldn’t hurt for them to try to improve their system.

      As for whether they tag websites to be ignored in the future, that is patently untrue. In the support forums, the prominent user raincoaster has been suspended on 3 separate occasions. I suspect I’ll trigger the system again in the future.

  4. Jemima Pett

    This is fascinating. I don’t seem to have any toruble with the on-wordpress versions of my blogs, but I have been plagued with a similar problem to what they describe in your quote on my self-hosted site – with the same advice from the host support team.

    I wonder when you upgraded to the latest WP version, and when the problems really started. There is something very odd going on.

    • Carrie Slager

      I don’t have any control over whether my WP blog upgrades because it does automatically since I’m not self-hosted. It’s interesting that you’re having problems with your self-hosted sites like that, though. You’d think WordPress would be less inclined to block self-hosted sites using an automatic system if someone’s gone through all that time and money to make a legitimate blog.

  5. cav12

    I did wonder what happened and thought how the heck did you violate any terms!! Nearly sent you an email and then when I checked the next day, your blog was back up.
    Thank goodness. I know they need to ‘patrol’ the trolls but perhaps a better coding system needs to be created!

  6. trabalhodigital

    The exactly same thing just happened to one of my blogs too.
    No reason at all for the suspension. What could it be? SEO ? I would say no, because Google would certly take care of this way before. Well it has passed 2 hours since the suspension. Lets see what happens. I ll keep you informed.

  7. thetimchannel

    I’m sensitive to the issue of people setting up scam and spamming blogs but having just had my wordpress blog (thetimchannel.wordpress.com) suspended after something like five years and 100k page views it’s a dam shame they can’t sort out the real spammers from legitimate bloggers any better than this! I’ve filled out all the forms and sent the obligatory Tweet to WordPress, but this is ridiculous IMHO. Hopefully I’ll be back up and running shortly but this is NOT something I’m going to forget. I was already on the cusp of upgrading to pro but now I’m leaning towards leaving the platform altogether if this is the best they can do. Klout score of 56. Been blogging since before the word was invented (Pyra Labs which was bought out by Blogger!). Seriously WordPress? Seriously. To top it off? I have fifty dollars worth of business cards with my wordpress blog ON THEIR WAY TO ME now! Jeebus I hope these idiots get me back up and running soon. Twitter @thetimchannel Enjoy.

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