"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

SCRIBD Ghost Bans FOIA Released Documents

Years ago I uploaded FOIA approved and released documents to SCRIBD, a site that allows you to share documents online.  The documents were a response to my latest Letter of Reprimand (LOR) issued for refusing an unlawful order, the resignation of my commission from the military along with supporting documentation for that resignation.  Again, these documents and others were officially released by the U.S. government through a Freedom of Information Act request.  So there should be no issues and I should not have to be exiled to Russia after the government shared this information with the public.

I even redacted the documents further, on my own, prior to uploading to SCRIBD where with little reference to them on my part, they somehow amassed 2.4K views.  I thought that was kind of strange for a quiet section of the internet to get so much attention.  At any rate, I noticed several weeks ago that the documents were gone and SCRIBD provided a message stating:

So I uploaded a new copy of the documents and emailed SCRIBD support and asked them if they removed my documents due to government request.  They wrote back just over a week later stating:

Hey there!

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us! Unfortunately, and I'm truly sorry for this, we've received a higher than normal amount of emails recently and have been unable to respond as quickly as we'd like to. We know what a pain it is to have to wait in line, but appreciate your patience and understanding none-the-less!

Sorry for any trouble here, but I am still seeing that document appearing on our site normally (https://www.scribd.com/doc/266297955/What-Faithful-Public-Service-Looks-Like). If you're still having trouble with it, let me know.

So I went to the link and the documents were back.  Well, for me they were.  Or perhaps for somebody using my IP address.  But not for everybody as the screenshot message above was taken by somebody else showing that the documents were still removed for other users.  Several users reported the documents were banned for them, so I used a different IP address to check and, sure enough, SCRIBD made the documents available for me to view but not for others.

That's something called "ghost banning" and it's apparently an increasingly popular technique for the censorship and message manipulation that we are seeing reported concerning social media giants like Facebook and others.  If you can control the information, you can control the population.  People are cause and effect, nature/nurture, and if you can shape the reality of a person you can get them to do your bidding.  It's really that simple.  Advertisers have known this for quite some time now.

Now this instance is obviously not about ad revenue or anything commercial.  So what's it about?  It's possible, though unlikely, that it's just a mistake on the part of SCRIBD.  And at the end of the day, it's their right to show what they want as they are a private company.

But if it turns out this private company is censoring the internet on behalf of a government body, that would not be surprising, but it would reflect very poorly on this internet company.  I hope that isn't the case.  I will keep readers posted when SCRIBD customer service gets back to me about this ghost banning.

ETA:  Just got this response back from SCRIBD:

Hi there,

Thank you for following up and letting me know that doc still wasn't appearing normally. I double checked from a browser while logged out and noted it was not appearing correctly as I had originally seen. I apologize for any confusion or frustration this may have caused!

It looks like I missed this the first time around, and for that you have my sincerest apologies for the mix-up. Our automated spam-prevention system became a little oversensitive and misidentified your document as spam. I've overridden this and you should soon find it in the expected locations in your profile. I have also flagged your document in our spam-detection system as non-spam to help prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns, thanks!

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