Artist Dennis Cooper maintained a popular online blog for over a decade. Cooper posted visual art, fiction (including a novel made up of animated GIF images), and commentary related to avant garde film and art. His blog attracted a lively community of active and regular contributors and commenters. On June 27, without prior warning, Google disabled his blog and his Gmail account with a generic notification that he had violated Google¹s terms of service. Cooper has tried unsuccessfully for several weeks to get an explanation for the disabling of his accounts and to learn whether he will be able to retrieve the large trove of materials and creative works he had posted there.

While companies like Google face significant challenges in establishing and enforcing user terms of service, monitoring accounts for violations of those terms and upholding legitimate privacy interests, Cooper’s case highlights concerns that Google should address immediately: Establishing greater transparency and more communication with users regarding the nature of violations of the terms of service, and ensuring that material users have created with their accounts is preserved and can be recovered in the event an account is disabled.

“Blogs and social media accounts serve as crucial outlets for creative and artistic expression for millions of people around the world, as well as venues for open discussion among interested visitors,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America. “Disabling Dennis Cooper’s blog with no explanation and no assurance that his years of work have been preserved undercuts the trust that users place in online platforms that host their work and ideas. PEN has joined Cooper’s calls for a prompt response from Google.”