Web Rule #1: Link to other sites on the Web (Updated)


Update: Roll Call is reporting that this was an issue with the Internet company hired by dozens of congressmen to run their Web sites:

"Smith’s site started blocking blogspot domains three months ago after GovTrends re-designed it and blocked readers routed from certain sites that could pose security risks, using a “blacklist” generated by Web security company gotroot.com. The blocking snafu seems to have been put to rest, at least temporarily. GovTrends unblocked blogspot from linking to Congressional clients on Tuesday, according to the company’s vice president, Ab Emam. But Emam says they’ll be closely monitoring traffic and if spam increases or there is harm to the sites, they could start blocking again without warning."

The antithesis of this rule would be to block links from other sites on the Web. That’s what Rep. Adrian Smith is doing. Smith is currently blocking all incoming links to his Web site from the .blogspot domain. This is apparently because an anti-Smith blog, Smith Watch, has been heavily criticizing him and attacking his record in Congress. The blogger at Smith Watch was having trouble linking to Smith’s site and asked the tech folks at Blogger to weigh in; this is part of their response:

The problem isn’t with your link. It’s with THEIR server. It’s rejecting (giving a 404) when the link comes from blogspot. … He’s blocking requests when it comes from bloggers.

Ok, to explain. Whenever you click on a link, the browser sends off a request to the server…yadda yadda…included in that is the referrer of the page you came from. His Official Government Website, that WE pay for (well I’m guessing on that part), is throwing up a 404 when the referrer heading comes from blogspot.com. I tested from one of my test blogs and it doesn’t work either, also uploaded a test page to googlepages (a different domain) and it works. So it really is blogspot they are blocking via the referrer.

… Congressman Adrian Smith is afraid of Bloggers!

I think the key here is that, yes, we do pay for these official government Web sites and Rep. Adrian Smith thinks that he can decide who can link to and discuss his role as an elected representative of the people of the third district of Nebraska. This is a truly terrible example of a congressman miserably failing in his use of the Web and appears to be an attempt to silence an online voice by nullifying their ability to link. As anybody who’s read anything about the Web (David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous springs to mind) will tell you, links are the glue that hold the Web together and allow communication across platforms and channels. Without links there is no Web. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine what this says about Congressman Smith.

Hat tip: Eric Nebraska at Daily Kos.