July 16, 2008

What is with Yahoo Answers?

Some of you may know that I have a web site that's dedicated to free video editing software.

One of the things I like to do is to get onto Yahoo Answers find questions that ask 'What's a good, free video editor', and answer them.

Over the past week or so I have provided in excess of 50 (!) answers to the community, almost 50% of which have been marked as "Best Answers' These have all been in relation to my area of expertise (free video editing software). A typical answer I provide will address the options available on the internet, along with my opinion of which one may be the best suited to the questioner. As a further benefit to the person asking the question (and under the link for 'Sources') I have provided a link to a site which has detailed information about the free video editing software available. The information on here has enabled many of the people asking the questions to download a suitable solution to their problem.

So far so good.

Until yesterday.

I received an e-mail from Yahoo stating "You have posted content to Yahoo! Answers in violation of our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service. As a result, your account has been suspended."

"That's interesting", I thought. I read through the Community Guidelines. Under 'Good behaviours' It sites entries such as

  • Share what you know.

    Chances are, someone could benefit from your knowledge, opinions, or personal experiences. Sharing what you know is one of many ways you can make a positive contribution to the community. Read more

  • Be courteous.

    Remember, we're a diverse community of people with diverse opinions. Everyone wants to be treated with respect, and showing respect to others makes the community better for all members. Read more

  • Be a good citizen.

    When you see a great question or answer, give it a star or thumbs-up. If you see abuse, report it. We're committed to doing our best to stop abuse on Answers, and, with your help, we can make a difference. Read more

  • Cite your sources.

all of which I have followed.

Under 'Bad behaviours it sites entries such as:

  • Venting, ranting or using hate speech

    Yahoo! Answers isn't a soapbox to vent personal frustrations or rant about issues. We are a community of people with diverse beliefs, opinions, and backgrounds, so please be respectful and keep hateful and incendiary comments off Yahoo! Answers. Read more >

  • Chatting or otherwise violating the question-and-answer format.

    Use Yahoo! Answers as a soapbox to vent your frustrations, rant, or otherwise violate the question and answer format. If you prefer to have discussions or chat with others, please use one of Yahoo!'s other community services, such as Yahoo! Groups or Yahoo! Messenger Chat Rooms. Read more

  • Being mean or obscene

    Because kids as young as 13 may participate in Yahoo! Answers, sexually explicit and vulgar language and images are not welcome on the site. Also not welcome are belligerence, insults, slurs and generally objectionable speech. If you wouldn't say it in public, don't post it on Answers. Read more

  • Exploiting the community

    Yahoo! Answers is a place to gain knowledge, not customers, page views, or dates. If you have years of experience in something, have a special hobby, own your own business, or if you are a knowledge partner, it's OK to accompany a good, on-topic answer with a link to your website, blog, or email to offer more information. However, it is not OK to post links that are unrelated to the topic or are clearly meant only to solicit others for personal and financial gain. Also prohibited are solicitations like "Will you add me as a contact?" or propositioning people. Read more

  • Cheating

    Our points system is meant to reward the community members for sharing questions and answers, so creating multiple accounts or posting content for the sole purpose of gaining points or soliciting others for points is not permitted. Posting filler answers to a question in an effort to be first to answer, or copying and pasting other members' answers, are also forms of cheating. Read more

  • Violating the law

    Members of Yahoo! Answers are not above the law, so don't post anything that violates the laws of your country, state, province, or city. Don't try to trick people into sharing their personal information, steal anything (like copyright or trademark material), or break into places you shouldn't be. Don't threaten, harass, impersonate, or hurt others, and don't invade other people's privacy. Read more

  • Behaving maliciously

    Don't post links to sites that contain viruses or malicious programs or that interfere with the operation of Yahoo! Answers. Read more

  • Misusing Answers

    Don't create multiple accounts to troll or otherwise violate these guidelines or the Yahoo! Terms of Service. Don't post things that are incomprehensible or in the wrong language, and don't post the same question over and over again. The community depends on you to report abuse and rate questions and answers, so using product features such as report abuse and ratings to target others is not allowed. Read more

  • Doing harm

    Be responsible and don’t misrepresent yourself, claim false credentials or expertise or give advice in a way that might cause someone harm. Don’t incite or advocate violence or harmful practices. Read more

none of which I have done.

Having reviewed the entries I sent a quick note back (following the procedure) which asked them to specify what I had done to violate the terms.

24 hours later the following note came back:
Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Answers.

We appreciate your inquiry about your suspension from Yahoo! Answers
and/or the deactivation of your Yahoo! ID. We reviewed your case, and
decided that your account is not eligible for reinstatement.

Once an account is disabled for a violation of the Terms of Service, the
subscriber to the account will lose the ability to log in and access the
account and its contents (including email and content stored with any
other Yahoo! service). The account also will not be reactivated.

Should you choose to create a new Yahoo! account, we invite you to read
the Yahoo! Terms of Service and Yahoo! Community Guidelines to help
ensure your new account is not deactivated.

So what's wrong with this picture?

YAHOO: "You have done something wrong but we won't tell you what. If you think you haven't then tell us why"
ME: "I do not think I have done anything wrong. Please tell me what you think I have done wrong"
YAHOO: "We still think you have done something wrong, we still won't tell you what and we're still shutting you down"

Hmmmm... interesting way to run a service.

Obviously Yahoo have every right to suspend access to their service for whatever reason they feel. There should then be an appropriate appeals process. But in the end, for a free service I believe they have the right to say who should, and shouldn't be allowed to use it.

What's ticking me off is the fact that they won't clarify what it is I'm supposed to have done!

I recall Robert Scoble being barred from Facebook not too long ago, without recourse, and kicking up a stink about it.

Maybe I should try and do the same......

EDIT: I sent another note off to Yahoo Answers requesting a little more information on what, exactly, I had done to attract their ire. Here's the reply:

Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Answers.

We appreciate your inquiry. Yahoo! may, in appropriate circumstances and
in its sole discretion, remove or edit any content and/or terminate the
accounts of users who appear to have violated the Terms and Conditions.

Any action taken is confidential. We will not release this information
unless required to do so by law or under other similar circumstances. We
are unable to make exceptions to this rule.
Or, to put it another way:
"You've done something wrong and not only will we not tell you what it was, we won't even entertain any discussion around what it was unless you get a court order"
I wonder what Seth Godin would make of this.

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  1. OUCH! Well that sounds kind of funny in a sense, but only in hindsight. The only thing I could see is that someone, probably a competitor, flagged you as abusive or Spamming, which is a fine line as it is. It's funny because they ask, "if you want to know more, ask us.... sike!" It'd be easier to make a new account, but then they would call it that "trolling" thing. what a tangled web indeed!

  2. I feel your pain and find myself in a similar situation with a 48% best answer rating and more than 20,000 points my account was terminated. So I created a second account with in a day it was terminated again - no explanations. :-(