Friday, May 04, 2012

Internet Identity - Yours, And The Other Guy's

One issue in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, that has always fascinated me, involves how we validate our existence, as a Blogger blog owner. Along with the periodic demand
I want that URL for my blog - it's my name!
and
Why was my blog deleted?
comes the intriguing demand
I want that blog deleted - the owner is impersonating me!

Some time ago, Blogger provided us with a definition of the complementary concepts of defamation and impersonation. Impersonation (identity theft) is a Blogger TOS offense - and if righteously reported, can be judged by Google Legal. Defamation (ridicule, slander, trash talk), on the other hand, is a civil or criminal offense (depending upon your country of residence) - and must be judged in a government court. Even with the difference defined, there are ways to confuse defamation and impersonation, in forum discussions.

One discussion subject, which touches jointly on identity theft, on Internet conflict, and on URL availability, is the insistent attitude
I want to publish a blog but someone has stolen my name!
The complainant, who we will for this example, refer to as "John Q Smith", is certain that his blog will have validity, when published only as "johnqsmith.blogspot.com". If "John Q Smith" wishes to publish his blog as "johnqsmith.blogspot.com", he may variously argue
  • "johnqsmith.blogspot.com" is dormant. Surely Blogger can re issue the URL to me?
  • I am "John Q Smith", and someone is impersonating me!
  • A blog published by "John Q Smith" is stealing my search engine results!

The subject of "dormant" blogs, and URL availability, has been thoroughly discussed. This concern is very simple - there is no activity based policy - or any policy - that results in URL reissuance.
Blogger accounts and Blogspot addresses do not expire. Therefore, we can't take away somebody's blog address to give to you.

The concern of URL availability is slightly less simple. URL availability policy, in general - is based on the age old principle of "first come, first served". There are legends of trademark violations which result in websites being taken offline - but even a court ordered action won't magically make a "BlogSpot.com" URL available to the successful plaintiff - it simply creates an unhappy defendant, who now has to start a blog or website under a new URL. The plaintiff has to settle for watching the "impersonation" slowly disappear from web searches.

The issue of stolen search engine results is less defined. People doing vanity searches will sometimes find search hit entries that do not please them. Someone searching on his own name will sometimes find blogs or websites published by people with identical, or similar, names - and blogs or websites to match. Someone with little Internet experience may confuse the presence of unfamiliar blogs or websites, in search hit lists against his personal name, with impersonation - or willful search hit theft.

Dormant / unavailable URLs, or search hit competition, as a concern - the solution is simple. Put unique content into your blog, that benefits or interests your readers. Your identity (or your blog's identity) will always be subject to competition and imitation. The more popular the subject of your blog, the more competition you will have. Conversely, if you have no competition, it's likely that you have no search engine attention, and no readers.

The unique content of your blog is what motivates the search engines to index your blog, and to assign Page Rank. Use your energy positively - put better / more content into your blog, and stop obsessing about the competition. Encourage the competition, and encourage more search engine attention.

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