As we live and die and publish and perish on the web together, it is never a delight to be told your work is suddenly missing from publication. 

I was informed yesterday that my article, “Urban Semiotic Articles Deleted from Google?” had gone missing from my Urban Semiotic blog hosted on WordPress.com.


I logged in to my WordPress.com Admin account and did multiple
searches for the article and I could not find the article! I hoped nothing strange
or nefarious was happening.  I am — and always have been — the only
Urban Semiotic staff member allowed to edit or publish articles.

How
does an article disappear from publication?  It is purposeful
censorship?  Or is it a technical glitch where only one article out of
1,151 published articles goes missing?  I guess I should be happy my SuperBug article is still published as of this writing.

I
immediately went to Google and did a search on the title of my missing
article and, as you can see in the screenshot below, Google had the
article, and its links, still available.  However, when I clicked on my
article link, I was immediately taken to a dead 404 page on
WordPress.com where my article used to be published.

There was no doubt the article was dead and gone.

I have
backups of everything I write, so I called up my original article and
republished it back on WordPress.com with the same date as the original
so the web links to that article would be restored. 

If you search for that article now on Google, you will be able to read the article — at least for now — unless that article is deleted again from WordPress.com.

I was sad to lose the 34 comments on the article.  Then I remembered my beloved Google and their fine “cached” view of pages they index.

I
went back to Google, searched on my article, and when I clicked the
“Cached” hotlink — my article magically reappeared in all its glory —
along with all those interesting comments that were deleted when the
article was deleted!

In order to preserve the record, I have
restored the original deleted article — as cached by Google —
available for your viewing pleasure right here:

http://bolesbooks.com/wp-deleted-urb.html

Now
you can read the article as it was originally published — and since I
am hosting that article away from WordPress.com and on my own personal
domain — it will not disappear for any reason.

As well, I also
made a downloadable PDF of the article and its comments – less pretty
than the original cached version, but more portable — that you can
download from here if you want the proof in a single file:

http://boles.com/wp-deleted-urb.pdf

I
have a hard time believing the article was removed on purpose — but
perhaps I am naive.  If the article was removed as a directed decision,
I was never notified of the censorship. 

The risk in a
methodical deletion is just too great — evidence remains, enemies are
made, new articles are written discussing the censorship, and the
deleted content begins to take on a larger life of its own than if it
had never been removed in the first place.

I will ask
WordPress.com support about the missing article — support is currently
closed as I publish this — and report my findings here.

5 Comments

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  2. I’ve never noticed censorship before, but a recent post of mine got me wondering. Here is the link to that post which hasn’t disappeared, but it just so far hasn’t appeared on any of the tag listings.
    http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/cold-war-paranoia-and-oppression/
    Usually my posts show up right away on the pages that list posts by tags, but my post hasn’t shown up even though I posted it last night. The tag pages I looked at even showed posts by other bloggers just minutes after they posted them. Either there is a glitch in the WordPress system that randomly only effects some posts or there is some kind of censorship.
    But what would be the point of censorship? I didn’t write anything that can’t be found on many different sites on the web. Maybe my post will eventually show up.