Relentless self-publicist and former Sony (SNE) pitchwoman Julia Allison has persuaded WordPress to remove a blog devoted to criticizing her. Allison's father, lawyer Peter Baugher, has sent cease-and-desist letters to the anonymous authors of the blog.
While many executives and job seekers have long been advised to market themselves as if they were a brand, Allison took this advice one step further, promoting her entire life -- via her Non Society site -- as a public event to which she hoped to attach sponsors and media interest. The effort began to backfire last year when her sponsors became unhappy with some of her antics which included wearing a dress made out of Trojan condoms and spanking a sweaty male stripper, she told BNET.
Allison began asking blogs to remove photos that she had previously posted of herself on the web, including one of her wearing nothing but black lingerie while she sits in the lap of an old man and sucks on his cigar. She also removed some of the more risque photos of herself from her Flickr account.
In December she began dating Jack McCain, the son of Senator John McCain, and apparently met the McCains a few days ago. Shortly after New Year, the legal letters began flying. Allison's primary target was the WordPress blog "Reblogging Non Society," which exhaustively dissected Allison's every move in tones ranging from mere sarcasm to vindictive delight. Allison told BNET in an email:
To the best of my knowledge, the cease and desist was sent to the email addresses listed on the blog, as well as one other individual whom a private investigator turned up as one of the authors of Reblogging NonSociety. He has agreed to stop, and so I would urge you not to write anything more about him.Allison also said she filed a terms of service violation complaint with Wordpress, claiming RBNS violated the company's ban on personal "attack blogs":
The only mistake I made was not filing a violation two years ago. I thought they would get bored. Guess not.WordPress and free speech
While RBNS certainly fell under WordPress's definition of an attack blog, the move raises a question about the company's commitment to free speech. Most people don't care about Allison (although she has a large following on the web). But if WordPress had taken down a blog devoted to daily critique of Sarah Palin or President Obama there would be an uproar in the media. While Allison is one of the more minor stars in the celebrity fermament she is still a self-created public figure, just like Palin or Obama. No one forced her to publish pictures of herself dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl, in a bikini, or as a different Catholic school girl. It's not clear where WordPress would draw the line -- if such a line were possible to draw -- between legitimate criticism of a public figure and unwarranted personal attacks.
"Jacy," the anonymous author of RBNS, says Allison's campaign to shut down her critics has been both thorough and effective:
They gave us no explanation. They shut us down without warning, then finally we got a form e-mail simply stating that blogs targeting individuals violated their TOS. When we argued our case, they didn't reply. Then, within a day or two, the e-mail from Peter Baugher showed up, with the attached letter to [recipient redacted].
We immediately started up another WP blog, almost as an experiment to see what was going on. Even though this one didn't get into JA, it simply explained to readers what had happened, it got shut down within two days.
Oh, another thing -- the original JA reblogger, the one who did Reblogging Julia on tumblr, also got a cease and desist letter from PB. It basically told her to shutter the blog immediately or he would get tumblr to do it.A third blog, 1938Media, which had posted a rant against Baugher for trying to end the very attention his daughter had sought, has also disappeared.
As a technicality, it isn't entirely clear that Allison's history of posing for racy photos is the root of her sponsorship woes. During her yearlong contract with Sony, Allison repeatedly praised Apple (AAPL)'s Mac products even though she was being paid to promote Sony's Vaio laptops. In one Non Society post, about 10 months into her Sony contract, she wrote:
So, a desktop it is. Now I have an Air, an iMac, 3 iPods, and an iPhone. The only thing missing is an iPad, but I'm going to wait a bit on purchasing that. The iMac took a giant bite out of my tech budget for the year!Asked whether RBNS -- which also noted the Sony/Apple fubar -- was responsible for her losing Sony as a sponsor, Allison told BNET:
My SONY sponsorship was a year long contract, which I served out. I have no idea how SONY felt about the site.Allison may have won a round against her critics but the war is not over yet. Jacy and the anti-Allison community (yes, there is one) have regrouped around two new blogs, Get Off My Internets! and About a Donkey.
- On Jan. 18, WordPress suspended About a Donkey, too.
- An archive of RBNS can be found at Reblogging Non Society Glossary.
- Another Allison reblogging blog has popped up at Reblogging Donk.
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