Yahoo + Open Source Censorship. Yahoo’s reason and the question in… question.

Ok, recap:

I’m a regular contributer to Yahoo! Answers. I’m at level 4 – that’s over 4000 points; they’re gained 2 and 10 at a time. For 31% of the answers I give, I’m awarded “Best Answer”.

So imagine my suprise when I get a “Violation Notice Email” from Yahoo saying:

“You have posted content to Yahoo! Answers in violation of our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service. As a result, your content has been deleted. Community Guidelines help to keep Yahoo! Answers a safe and useful community, so we appreciate your consideration of its rules.”

This is the “violating” Answer:

If you buy the XP disks you just get that – XP. No MS office, no other programs other than the very basics.

If you’re starting over anyways, grab a blank CD and use imgburn ( ) to burn an Ubuntu ( ) or Kubuntu ( ) .iso on there. Put the burned CD in the CD tray and restart the computer. It doesn’t need a hard drive at all to run – it loads into the computer’s RAM (temporary memory).

K/ubuntu comes fully loaded and thousands of other programs are just a few clicks away – you just look them up in a built in installer, it grabs the stuff needed and installs it all. It’s free in both senses of the word – free of cost and free of obligations.

The question wasn’t included in the email, so I was a little vague on the details. I remembered that the person had a computer that was basically dead in the water (Windows died / wasn’t there) and s/he had no CDs to put Windows back on and was asking about her / his options.

I didn’t see how the info in my answer was in any way abusive / spam / etc, so I emailed Yahoo for the reason.

“One of my answers was removed for abuse.
How is recommending freely available and legal alternatives abuse?
ImgBurn is also a perfectly legal program, so are Ubuntu and Kubuntu(they’re Linux).
Pointing out the issues that I’ve run across with XP is not abusive.
I believe your choice is in severe error.
I have kept a record of this e-mail for my records.”

The response I got back? An auto-reply (I’ll spare you the boring details)

Each time I e-mailed Yahoo I got the auto-reply. Ok, I concluded it was a dead end there.

I put what I can remember at the time on my blog – to vent, to see if anyone else has had the same experience and to see what the public response would be.

I got picked up by a few blogs and then a danish tech site. The comments were a variety of responses, but the two biggest question were:

“What was the question?” and “What was the reason?”

I got an email from Yahoo a few days ago:

“Hi Amanda,

We noticed your blog post about a violation on your Yahoo! Answers account and wanted to share some clarification. This answer was removed as a violation of our question and answer format. While it was related, it did not address the asker’s question about whether or not it was difficult to install a particular operating system. We hope this helps clarify our community guidelines for Yahoo! Answers. Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Yahoo! Answers Team”

Ok, so that’s the official reason. My answer was relavent, but it didn’t strictly answer the question as stated.

I replied to the above email with:

“Could you include the text of the question so my blog entry is as complete as possible? I didn’t bookmark the question at the time as I did not forsee the removal of my answer, nor that Yahoo would not include a link to the problematic question / answer.

As I have recieved numerous auto-replies when I’ve tried to contact your company for clarification… perhaps I should make this request on my blog?


In the meantime, I replied to some of the comments in two seperate posts, and didn’t really expect a reply from Yahoo (from my email, that is).

Imagine my suprise earlier today when I got:

“Hi Amanda,

This is the full question related to your answer:

Question: Installing Microsoft Windows XP OS?

Question Details: My company is getting rid of old PCs and I’m considering buying one. They have completely wiped out the hard drive, so there is no OS installed at all. Previously it had Windows Me or 2000 on it (not sure which). Is it going to be foolish of me to think I can buy Windows XP and install it myself? What kind of problems can I expect to run into?

Yahoo! Answers Team”

So… coming full circle I still don’t think my Answer was a violation of any of their rules and I still think that the Asker could have really used my Answer.

It was relevant, it addressed the “problems s/he could expect to run into”, it even gave her details on how to get, burn and use a very easy way to test drive an OS that would solve her needs.

The other Answers people gave covered the “buying and installing of XP”.

Am I missing something?


7 Responses to “Yahoo + Open Source Censorship. Yahoo’s reason and the question in… question.”

  1. Amanda Kerik’s WordPress Blog Yahoo + Open Source Censorship. A second follow-up. « Says:

    […] Yahoo Answers + Open Source Censorship. Yahoo’s reason and the question in… question. Summary: A full recap with Yahoo’s official reason and the question at the center of this issue. […]

  2. Amanda Kerik’s WordPress Blog Yahoo Answers Censorship? Follow-up #3 « Says:

    […] Yahoo Answers + Open Source Censorship. Yahoo’s reason and the question in… question. Summary: A full recap with Yahoo’s official reason and the question at the center of this issue. […]

  3. Colin Says:

    Your answer was fine, and it tactfully pointed out that the person asking the question could end up spending quite a bit of money to get basic functionality in a home PC.

  4. David Schwartz Says:

    Yahoo is being absolutely absurd. If a person asks what kinds of difficulties they might run into, suggesting ways to avoid those difficulties is entirely appropriate. Being as charitable to Yahoo as possible, it may not be the best possible answer, but to say it violates their guidelines or terms of service is just insane.

    I’ve read both the community guidelines and the terms of service and baffled as to what part of either they claim it violates. Either Yahoo is engaging in deliberate censorship, specifically prohibiting the mentioning of alternatives to Windows or screwed up thinking you were suggesting something illegal or otherwise suspicious and refused to admit it.

    Either way, shame on Yahoo.

  5. jbo5112 Says:

    Yours was probably the best answer. If the computer was old enough to come with 2000 or ME, then XP, with all the service packs, patches and bloatware, would have hogged enough resources to kill it. My wife’s computer is an early XP machine, and even with a new hard drive and 3x the RAM, she was eventually driven to Ubuntu. Everything but flash player (*shakes fist at adobe*) runs fine now.

    Have you tried the open source version of the Flash player? It doesn’t do everything that the original does, but give it time. My mom, too, was driven to Ubuntu by a computer that squeaked under all the garbage that builds up over time. I’ve got a regular list of programs for her to use on her friends’ computers when they complain about it going weird but don’t want to try something new.

  6. Yahoo! Answers and the Deleted Answer, a resurgence of interest « Amanda Kerik’s WordPress Blog Says:

    […] seems to be a renewal of interest over my posts regarding a deleted answer from Yahoo! Answers I blogged about over half a year […]

  7. Yahoo! and Open Source … and Richard Stallman? « Amanda Kerik’s WordPress Blog Says:

    […] Richard M Stallman of the GNU project. He has asked me to find the email address of the author of . Because there was no address posted on the blog itself, I looked on the web and found this […]

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