Google Removes Dennis Cooper’s 14-Year-Old Blog, Illustrates Dangers of Using a Publishing Service

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Fans of artist Dennis Cooper are concerned about Google’s mysterious removal of his 14-year-old blog approximately two weeks ago. Cooper, a novelist and performance artist known for his controversial subject material, fears that Google may be censoring his work but hasn’t received an explanation.

After contacting Google via multiple channels, Cooper received a statement about the blog being in “violation of the terms of service agreement.” The site is hosted on Google’s Blogger platform and currently displays a message indicating that it has been removed. His Gmail account has also been removed.

Cooper, who used his site to interact with followers daily, has no confirmation whether Google has deleted his blog and email account entirely or simply disabled it. If it has been deleted, he will have lost more than a decade of work, conversations with followers, and an unreleased animated GIF novel.

“I would guess that if Google has any intention of explaining their action and offering a solution without forcing me to sue them, that should happen very soon,” Cooper said in a post on his Facebook page. “Still, as of this morning, I haven’t received a syllable of information or explanation from them.”

PEN America has contacted Google on Cooper’s behalf and will issue a public statement today. In the meantime, he continues to update his followers via Facebook.

Cooper said that he has not backed up the site or archived it anywhere else. While some might argue that his situation is a sobering reminder of why you should always back up your website, the greater problem is entrusting your site’s content to a service that can remove it at any time. This happens every day due to censorship or simply because the company is done experimenting with the service it offered its users and has decided to discontinue it.

While Blogger’s content policy claims that the service supports self-expression and freedom of speech, Google’s terms of service state that the company “may suspend or stop providing our Services to you if you do not comply with our terms or policies or if we are investigating suspected misconduct.”

When you host your site with a service like Blogger, Tumblr, Squarespace, Medium, or the like, you ultimately hand the reins over to a company that can remove your content at any time. The price of convenience is a loss of control. Owning your own content is the only way to ensure your site has a future that is independent of any corporate entity or service.

No matter what blogging software you choose, hosting your own site will make it less likely to be censored. There are many reasons why WordPress currently powers more than 26% of the web, but one of the most important is the freedom its GPL licensing affords. This, combined with the project’s mission to democratize publishing, has attracted a community contributors who are inspired by the same principles and dedicated to giving people a voice on the web.

Cooper’s situation highlights the dangers of entrusting your content to a publishing service that may not even give fair notice before removing your website. As a writer and performer whose livelihood depends on the freedom of expression, Cooper would be better served with an open source, self-hosted publishing platform like WordPress, along with daily off-site backups for peace of mind.

29 Comments


  1. When you host your site with a service like Blogger, Tumblr, Squarespace, Medium, or the like, you ultimately hand the reins over to a company that can remove your content at any time.

    The same goes for WordPress.com, yet Automattic have defended several blogs from censorship and lawsuits on their platform. I applaud that.

    Also, a “self-hosted” WordPress installation doesn’t really mean you are free from being shut down or censored. For example, many web hosts do not want content of pornographic or “ethically wrong” nature (such as torrenting or self harm guides) on their servers and can shut your site down without notice. It’s in their terms of service.

    And even if you do find a web host that allows this, or if you literally host the site yourself, freedom of speech has its limitations by law. An example of this is a Canadian guy who was charged with “corruption of morals” for running a WordPress site showcasing violent pictures and videos.

    But great post Sarah, and definitely a topic that needs more attention.

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    1. However you can guard against the impact of a host shutting your site down by simply installing a good backup plugin and sending the backups offsite to, say, Dropbox. Shut me down? No problem, I’ll grab last night’s backup, move it to another host and be back and running.

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  2. When I was a kid, like, 3 years old, I reached my hand out and touched a hot stove. Burned my hand quite badly.

    A simple truth of life is that people learn that fire burns by getting burned. There is no other way to learn this simple fact of nature. We’re not equipped for it.

    Backups are a similar lesson. Sometimes, you get burned quite badly.

    Folks, follow the 321 rule in all things important to you:

    3 complete sets of backups.
    2 types of media used to hold them.
    1 of them located offsite.

    If you’re going to argue the cost and difficulty, then you have no burn scars. This is not optional. It is a requirement for things you care about.

    Also, if Dennis does manage to obtain his data, then I’d be happy to help him transfer it to another platform. Obviously, I’d suggest a WordPress.org based site on a better host. ;)

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  3. Sarah,

    Very good blog article. I’ve said this many times, but you’ve said it eloquently. I always enjoy your articles with WordPress Tavern. Keep up the good work. I agree with Otto about backups. It seems we never learn.

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  4. A sobering reminder that when you publish on someone else’s platform, you are bound to their rules and terms of service.

    The only way to retain control over what you publish or create is to control the platform (i.e. a self-hosted website).

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    1. I agree with your statement for the most part but…self-hosted websites…the host can shut you down. if different the domain registrar can shut you down as well.

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      1. Yes, they can. But they normally will inform you of their action, and in 99% of the cases – expect you choose a cheapo-“save as much money as possible” host – your data will not only be still around, but backed up daily, too.

        cu, w0lf.

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  5. That’s why I move my business blog to wordpress. I feel comfortable here, without afraid being deleted immediately. I hope the blog can restore by the google.

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  6. Now solely relying on Facebook… He just doesn’t learn.

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  7. The important thing is not just to backup, but also to use your own domain name. Your following will have a difficult time re-connecting, if you have to replace your address from yourname.hostedservice.com

    Whereas when you control your domain name, all it takes is a DNS change, a few hours, and your backup can be restored elsewhere. You keep your following, and all is well.

    This is why I moved back to blogging on my own site, rather than microblogging elsewhere. If it’s worth saying, it’s worth writing a real article about – on a site I really own and control.

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  8. Don’t blog on a free provider. This is a perfect example. It is cheap now a days. When I started on the internet, it was $120 a month, as technology progressed, it went down to $49 a month, down to $4-$9 per month, depending on my hosting (I have more than one, slowly moving everything to one company).

    Iwanttohostyour.website is $100 for a year, .com and hosting.
    GoDaddy is $100 for a .com with hosting for a year, currently running discounts so it could be less.
    NameCheap has the same thing, around $100 for a year.

    Those are the cheapest plans for them and they have 1st year discounts.

    There are tonnes more, I am not going to post EIG owned hosting companies.

    I just posted above three companies, that I have used/currently use. You can look at them or search for others. There is no real reason for anyone to use a free hosting provider.

    $8-$12 a month, including the cost of the domain in here.

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  9. This is something that goes without saying to those of us in the marketing space – yet it seems like it has to be said over and over, and we too can fall victim to trusting the convenience of someone else’s platforms. Anytime you use a SAAS based service you run the same risk. How many of us regularly back up our CRMs and email lists from the sites that manage them?

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    1. Ouch. Google slam dunked him the hard way.

      Something about this doesn’t add up. I’m willing to bet that he has had past exchanges with Google employees before it came to this.

      Scream “freedom of speech/expression” loud and long enough and sooner or later a company will (in this case) say, “Our servers – our rules chump! Buh-bye….”

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  10. So you are saying this guy couldn’t afford a domain and cheap hosting all these years and counted on Google to keep the blog live on the internet? Time and time again, Google has destroyed lives including all those AdSense publishers who loss a ton of money way back in the day.

    Did anyone of his friends talk to him about branding his name online and get a real URL and cheap hosting? Really, he got what was coming to him.

    Even though My host does a backup of my blogs, I download the backups every few days to my external HDD. I plan for the worse..

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    1. what is your eHDD crashes?

      I personally do 5 copies of the backups

      Google Drive, Dropbox, my own file sharing website (private), my own eHDD and I give it on an USB stick.

      Voila. Now if GD, DB, my hosting provider, my eHDD and USB stick all fail at the same time….maybe I shouldn’t be doing things on the internet?

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      1. *what if your eHDD crashes

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  11. In a nutshell…
    “Cooper said that he has not backed up the site or archived it anywhere else. While some might argue that his situation is a sobering reminder of why you should always back up your website, the greater problem is entrusting your site’s content to a service that can remove it at any time. “

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    1. Cooper’s situation highlights the dangers of entrusting your content to a publishing service

      Unless you own your hosting company you are always entrusting someone else. Backup is the only answer.

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  12. This is completely unethical on the part of Blogger to shut down a site without any notice. At least, the company should have given Dennis a chance to backup his blog.

    We all understand freedom of speech brings with it the responsibility of ensuring that we should not violate the privacy, freedom or reputation of others. If Dennis has violated the guidelines he should have been given a fair chance to rectify the mistake or take the content to some other hosting site.

    In the majority of the countries, even the criminals sentenced to death are given three chance to appeal for mercy and even if their mercy plea is rejected the authorities ensure to fulfill the last wish of the criminal. What kind of policy is this where even the accused did not know what crime he has committed.

    One of the suggestions that have been posted here is to take backup of the blog but what about SEO efforts a blogger put in to optimize the content over the years. What about the age of domain that is also a ranking factor in search results. What about the backlinks one has built over the years. Such policy ruins the dream of a person within a second. Such policies should be strongly condemned by one and all.

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    1. Cooper should of gotten his own domain. If his hosting company shuts it down, he moves the domain to another hosting company. At most 3-5 or so days of unavailability.

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      1. Miroslave, he didn’t have a backup, so his own domain wouldn’t have been helpful then anyway.

        I don’t see why Google should give people a chance to back their stuff up though. They should have done that already.

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  13. Nice article! This just reminded me to back up mine cause I only did once a month ago I think.

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    1. I used to backup all my sites automatically to either Google Drive or Dropbox, I can’t remember right now, each site would have their own folders to dump stuff in them. I switched backup plugins and I haven’t done the auto-backup thing again. I might switch backup plugins yet again.

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  14. So sad :( , what a idiotic act by a so called GOOGLE. I hope his work is save.

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  15. He has absolutely nobody to blame but himself.

    10+ years of work and not a single backup? It sucks but it’s 100% true.

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  16. I am reading a lot of thoughtless comments on this thread about why he has not backed up his content, calling him names for not doing so. People are addressing symptoms, instead of asking why blogger has done what they have done, how such platforms are undemocratic, and under which humane right do they allow themselves to do so. This should be the scary part of the debate, not only focusing on why the poor guy has not backed up. Whoever said that human nature is primarily benevolent has not read microscopically focused conversations like those on this thread.

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  17. With a subsomain like that, surely it was only right it got deleted. I kid!

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