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Senator Joe Lieberman asks Google for a terrorist flagging button on Blogger (theverge.com)
88 points by nextparadigms 1222 days ago | 69 comments



Fear is the most powerful tool that any government has to expand their powers. Or put optimistically: a common enemy has historically been the most effective way to unite a people.

Morally it's hard to counter public policy that claims to make you safer because you're asking someone to not care about the safety of "our children".

Biologically asking someone to not be afraid is asking them to use rational thought to counter a hard coded evolutionary mechanism.

The existence of government at all is dependent and predicated on fear. If we don't fear anarchy and foreign powers, we won't see a need for government.

Fear for our lives and fear for our souls are what fuels the two largest organisations on the planet.

Lieberman is doing a clumsy job of using a well honed tool to try to expand government power. It is pathetic in it's simplicity and predictability and incredible that he can't see the political parallels between this and tagging books as "dangerous".

But I don't think Joe is a stupid man. I think he is being controlled by powerful forces. Through our HN, Reddit, slashdot and techmeme lenses we see the Internet and it's disruption at a micro level. We forget the massive macro disruption that is occurring and that is destroying enormous old profitable businesses.

If you are the CEO of a record label, film studio, newspaper conglomerate or book publisher you are scared out of your wits because a massive, and possibly the only competitive barrier to entry has fallen: distribution. Your printing presses, distribution centers, record stores and logging companies aren't needed by a competitor. Information distribution has become free.

Incumbents can't compete with the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple because they've sucked up all the hot tech talent and startups are consuming the rest. So the only strategy left is to disrupt the distribution medium. Break the Internet - or at least sieze control of it and regulate yourself back into a competitive position.

There is enormous pressure on our senators and congressmen to use any excuse they can to regulate the Internet. Creating a non-level playing field is the only bullet many old world businesses have left to fight the innovators and the only politically acceptable excuse is fear.

Any politician who wants to limit the freedom of communication on the Internet has declared themselves disingenuous at best.

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> "There is enormous pressure on our senators and congressmen to use any excuse they can to regulate the Internet."

Some of them probably know what the main agenda really is, like the main sponsors of the bill. But many of the others probably don't and they actually think that by voting for a bill like SOPA they are doing a good thing overall, and they are actually saving people's jobs (once they fall for MPAA's whole propaganda), and don't even take into consideration that by "protecting" those jobs, they could be destroying a lot more, not just economy-wise, but liberty wise, too, simply by voting for a bill like SOPA, which was of course mainly written by MPAA/RIAA themselves.

This is why I cringed when I watched the CNN GOP debate the other night and some of them were basically saying they would listen to the "experts" or "advisors" and go with whatever they are proposing. This is how we keep passing laws like these. Because the politicians themselves lack any common sense or leadership, and mindlessly pass a bill that is completely written by some corporations, or they listen to advisors who have an interest in continuing the wars, and so on. Many times they don't even read the bills themselves before they vote. They just decide on what they hear from other colleagues or from the "experts".

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In the US campaign donations is a problem too, but even in Europe it can go the other way too: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2587764

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I think that for the most part, congress members are far more concerned with receiving campaign donations, staying in the good graces of their party leaders and being re-elected than the actual issues.

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There's quite a few joking replies on this thread, most of which I got a few chuckles out of.

But the problem just keeps popping back up.

In Australia we had the very-close run thing of the ISP based internet filter. This got as far as live trials. Most people didn't mind an opt-in filter, but this one had no unfiltered option.

The government planned to hand off censorship to some type of unelected board, and the entire thing was cloaked in secrecy, so you weren't allowed to know the contents of the 'filtered' content (because they say that just makes people go and look at them, a circular argument if ever there was one).

Of course they promised it would only be kiddie porn, terrorists and all that type of thing.

Then the trial list got leaked onto Wikileaks and of course there were all sorts of ordinary sites caught up in the mesh (some had been hacked by porn sites in the past, but had been cleaned up again). There were others that didn't fall under the government criteria, and it was just obvious they didn't have any intention to stick to their own criteria.

Luckily a close election was forecast so the government dumped the thing as it needed every vote it could.

But, as you say, the entrenched businesses and terrified of being taken out of business and are doing everything they can to get controls placed onto the internet.

Australian retailers are getting killed by internet imports and internet price-checking (ie, going into a retail store, picking the item, checking on a phone for a better price, and ordering online). The big-name retailers have already moaned to the government to do something, which of course they got laughed at by the general public so dropped it.

But the point is this ; if the tools were there, the government might have proposed a 'report for being un-Australian site' type button. It's equally possible to imagine a 'report for exporting jobs overseas' button - or whatever other crazy scenarios you can think of.

I can't see it stopping until a constitutional amendment or similar high-level decision is made declaring government fiddling off limits. There's US constitutional protection for owning a gun, or freedom of speech, but not one guaranteeing a free internet. Eventually free internet is likely to become as important as both put together.

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There is already internet censorship in Australia: http://www.news.com.au/technology/internet-filter/telstra-op... Even though they say it's voluntary, it's just ISPs adopting it. It's not voluntary for the users. I even quit.

Now the government only has to give subsidies to ISPs that do 'voluntarily block content' with a "$9.8 million scheme". Much like UK's censorship regime.

I'm sorry, it's already happening.

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I didn't see that one sneak in. Thanks for the info. I'm not with either ISP so I doubt I'm affected, but still, that was brought in on the quiet.

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A lot of attention need to be brought to it then, so all their customers can leave and other ISPs see how bad for business it is.

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"Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ...voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_G%C3%B6ring#Quotations

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Imagine we'd had the internet for a century ...

Sixty years ago it would have been a Commie flagging button.

Forty years ago it would have been a button to flag a Dirty Hippy.

Twenty years ago it'd have been a Denounce-a-Doper button.

Alarmist politicians: bringing you a different instance of the same buggy social design pattern since 500BC.

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Let's just skip right to the "children report your parents for unpatriotic speech" button and be done with it.

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[deleted]

There are oppressive dictatorships of every political persuasion. It's really quite uncorrelated with what their professed ideology is. I'm willing to bet none of the people who would have been flagged with the hypothetical commie button would have been engaged in killing of political prisoners.

(Besides, there's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attica_Prison_riot. Granted, the scale is different, but it's not like you need to be a communist dictatorship to engage in bloody suppression of prison uprisings.)

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It would be easier if there was a set of easily identifiable colored icons so you could click and report someone for being a terrorist, homosexual, gypsy, jew.

Is there any sort of existing standard ?

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There is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_concentration_camp_badges

(I assume that's what you were referring to.)

Edit: There's nothing like a tour of a place like Dachau to put these things in perspective. I wouldn't say I "recommend" it, because it was one of the least uplifting things I've done, but it's certainly educational.

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We should all print out copies of that and mail them to him.

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Every human above the age of five who lives or has been educated in "the west" or "the north" knows at least the basics about concentration camps and the jewish genocide or what it's like to live under dictatorship. Every single one of us knows how horrible it was. None of us would want to be a victim or a witness or an actor of such a monstrosity.

But it happened again and it will happen again because there have been, there are and there will always be sociopathic leaders who don't give a fuck how many people they crush on their way to power. They know full well the hows and whys of previous genocides and wasteful wars, they know lots of people suffered but they also know that some people benefited — at least for a while — from all this misery.

They did/do/will seriously consider chasing down minorities, limiting free speech, blocking scientific research, declaring wars.

As long as they get some benefit.

As long as they aren't on the wrong side of the stick.

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Every human above the age of five who lives or has been educated in "the west" or "the north" knows at least the basics about concentration camps and the jewish genocide or what it's like to live under dictatorship. Every single one of us knows how horrible it was. None of us would want to be a victim or a witness or an actor of such a monstrosity.

I disagree. The resurgence of neo-Nazi movements and Holocaust denial suggests that your argument is incorrect.

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I have been a member of a very active french anti-fascist group called SCALP in the early 90s. I know too much about those neo-Nazis you talk about. They would be a good illustration of the second part of my comment regarding SOME people who don't care about the suffering they might be responsible of.

Most of these movements are built around a leader's father-like character and the removal of all responsibility from the shoulders of the small guys.

That's how you push a nation to slaughter its minorities. That's how all the small guys can manage their guilt.

All of the fascist skinheads and young royalists and whatnots I've fought against have had the exact same education as me. All of them knew about the holocaust, the armenian genocide and so on because - like me - they were exposed to the same books and classes and documentaries.

Watching hours of emaciated prisoners and dumped corpses is guaranteed to disturb anybody. Most people will react by rejecting the images and the causes: they will say this shit is horrible and, for the rest of their lives, will be able to connect the dots.

Some people, the sociopaths I was talking about, will react by thinking that all these horrors were deserved, that the perpretators were right, that the west betrayed them and so on. They won't be a lot but they will find each others. The coldest and the more charismatic among them will take the role of leader and you'll have a new group of neo-Nazis.

A shorter version of my argument would be "They are perfectly capable of connecting the dots. But what disgusts most of us is somehow seen by them as acceptable.". I don't think the resurgence of neo-Nazis invalidates my point.

Quite the contrary.

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"the jewish genocide"

But how many know about any other victims?

When church leaders in the US talk about removing homosexuals from the community, or councils in the UK evict gypsies - do they get the hint?

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Do you ask if those church leaders and councils (everywhere, not only in the UK) are able to link their decisions/ideas to past horrors? Of course they do. And they rationalize the hell out of it by talking convincingly about a greater good or whatever.

And by choosing helpless/"immoral" victims.

And it works. Obviously.

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Senator Lieberman's Internet policy might be a little goofy, but I'm pretty sure you don't need to educate him about the Holocaust.

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That may very well be, but then what's his excuse for his goofy policies on Internet policing where people are encouraged to label their fellow citizens? Being able to flag "inappropriate content" is one thing, being able to flag a blog as "terrorist" is another.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwins_law

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Yes, sometimes it is a good thing that it is mentioned, though. I don't think it is a path that we want to go down again, slowly or quickly.

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I think the Godwins law thing has worn itself out now. We can't develop a history blank hole because it becomes the party/war/leader who must not be mentioned. The law is a fight against argument ad hitlerum, not against talking about the nazis.

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Some type of 'AddThis' style plugin I'm guessing.

It's all jokes but you can seriously see how government control over something as mundane as browser standards could go horribly wrong.

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There's already a function for reporting abuse of Blogger's Terms of Service, including hate speech and inciting violence here:

http://www.google.com/support/blogger/bin/request.py?hl=en&#...

Perhaps Google could integrate a method for reporting abuse directly on the blogs themselves. Obviously, there is no need to distinguish terrorism from other forms of abusive activity until you're filling out a complaint form, and Lieberman is simply trying to get some press coverage as 'tough on terrorism' from his constituents, as per his MO.

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They really shouldn't encourage reports of an entire blog. Reporting content that breaks some law makes sense, reporting a person for their entire stream goes too far; it's just there to go with Lieberman's “the problem of this country is these people” rhetoric. At some point a human needs to deal with the reports and they'll have to look at specific occurrences of problems.

Edit: the quip was in fact referring to content, not blogs. I'm still not sympathetic to the proposal, which is about getting Google to advertise this guy's fear-based ideology.

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Can we get a "moron" flagging button on senate.gov while we're at it?

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Properly implemented and promoted "moron" flagging button would make www.senate.gov much more popular.

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A moron "flogging" button would be better

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Make it vote-able and we'll have the senate cleared out within the hour.

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Surely the senate.gov domain is sufficient as a moron flag.

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"Blogger’s Content Policy does not expressly ban terrorist content nor does it provide a ‘flag’ feature for such content."

So that's what was missing from the Internet to finally stop terrorism. Mr. Lieberman seems to believe that the Internet is a fully-functional piece of technology with the most mature set of users. The second a flag button is put anywhere on the Internet, it is ripe for abuse.

And what happens if I mistakenly click the "Flag as Terrorist" button on a post? Can I take it back, or is the author now on all watch lists?

The Internet is functioning as well as needed, thank you.

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In the actual letter to Google[1], the words "violent Islamist extremism" appear exactly four times, including twice in the concluding sentence.

Am I to assume this flagging button is only for use on violent Islamist extremists?

1. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/documents/2011/11/lieberman-let...

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I just read the letter- YouTube has a flag button for terrorist content already?

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Apparently so (I didn't know either)

Every video has a "Flag as inappropriate" link[1] (it's a picture of a flag) that lets you choose Reason->Violent or Repulsive Content->Promotes Terrorism.

A quick search through the YouTube Terms of Service[2] and the YouTube Community Guidelines[3], find nothing for "terror" or anything similar.

[1] - http://www.google.com/support/youtube/bin/answer.py?answer=9...

[2] - http://www.youtube.com/t/terms

[3] - http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines?gl=CA&hl=e...

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Google should give him what he wants: a prominent button on every blogger page that emails Sen. Lieberman's office directly.

Would last about an hour I think.

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You're assuming he knows how to use email, his staffers have little choice and would just killbox it (no doubt a forthcoming button addition to Blogger for potential terrorists). Note the "article" said he put pen to paper to write to Google, unless that was a tongue in cheek comment. :-/

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What would be the purpose of flagging such things? To disable access so that fewer people notice them? That doesn't seem like such a great idea. Instead, the government should be encouraging people to blog about their planned crimes in public so that lots of people can read it and call the police.

Terrorism is a lot less effective when it's treated like an ordinary crime instead of something different or special. It's best if we, as a society make it easy for people to report it to law enforcement.

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Well I guess it's crowd sourcing the terrorist surveillance costs.

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... Shouldn't the terrorist then have a "terrorize" button, so that when they see a site they don't like they could "terrorize" it?

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Seems to me this one button would serve both purposes. Or is that your point?

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More awesomeness for the Compliant Website Template http://www.dchest.org/comply.html

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It won't be effective as terrorists use Wordpress.

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Ah Congress. Always aiming for that perfect ZERO approval rating when single digits isn't low enough.

Maybe he should ask Facebook for a "vote this person to gitmo" button so we can turn in neighbors we don't like.

How is this joker who changes party affiliation with however the wind is blowing still around?

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What's the worst thing that could possibly happen.

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Lots of wasted time (and $$) on behalf of Google defending itself from frivolous demands, and worse even more wasted time by members of Congress.

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The original source of this story is:

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/lieberman_...

The submitted article, from TheVerge, has quite rudely hidden the attribution at the bottom of the article, in a colored text block which lacks usual link/clickable styling. I suggest submissions featuring TheVerge should be discouraged whenever they are just wrapping and obscuring another originating source.

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Hidden? Not only it's in the [Source] block, as they refer to TPM on the text itself. And the styling is consistent with many other links on the site.

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Links are the currency of the web. TheVerge consciously avoids linking to the story originator on first in-context mention of that publication. Nor on the key verb phrase where they could allude to the fact they learned of the story via TPM ("...written a letter...") Nor where linking to TPM's more-detailed coverage could supply original source documents ("...the letter...").

The one link they do give is at the bottom, where many readers won't have even scrolled to, and in the sort of grayed text block many viewers skim over as ad or decoration.

Others have the same criticism of TheVerge's style:

http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/11/three-lessons-news-sites-ca...

This is especially egregious when an aggregator is primarily regurgitating the same details as from the single original source, who barely gets any credit at all. There's no reason for a site like HN to prefer the link-jacking, link-stingy aggregator in such cases. (Sometimes, mods even change the submission to reflect the more-primary story-originating site.)

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So basically he want's a "4-Chan Party Van" launch button, and he want's to put it in the hands of pre-pubescent teenagers with an axe to grind?

Do it! Please God let this happen. Let someone's totally brain dead idea happen so it completely buries them because they were too blinded by their own petty hates and stupidity that they couldn't even think one step ahead.

I think the best way to deal with people like Joe Lieberman is to give them everything they ask for.

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Senator Lieberman means well but he doesn't understand technology. A terrorist flagging button isn't going to do it.

I'm certain that all the blogs in the world are scraped in real time by various intelligence services in the federal government.

What Senator Lieberman should be asking for is to have Google send them several engineers to improve the algorithms that flag the terrorist blogs for them.

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I question your assertion that he means well. I suspect he knows exactly what he's doing: exploiting the fear of the Internet (after all, it's a part of the uncontrolled world that is right in your house) among the less educated - by which I mean that 80% of the public that doesn't really have time to think about the Internet much - in order to make himself look like a protector.

It rings incredibly false to you and to me because, after all, we're not the target audience. But he knows exactly what he's doing. He does not care if terrorists are caught - in fact, it's all the better for him if they aren't! All he cares about is that voters see him as an island of strength in a chaotic world of dimly perceived threats. He's actually pretty good at it, which is why he's been voted back to Congress again and again for years, even when his own party threw up its collective hands and ran against him.

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Even better; stop wasting so much time and money from a trivial, near non-existent threat.

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The original article: http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/lieberman_...

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I've made one for the senator

     <a href="mailto:joe@senators.us?subject=I'm an idiot, and you?">Probably a terrorist | His land his full with natural resources.</a>

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Can we also get a terrorist flagging button for hacker news please?

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I feel a bookmarklet coming on.

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There should be a button where anyone who sees a terrorist working can press a button and turn that site off. This will protect our great nation from terrorists.

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Be about 3 seconds before I'd flag Joe.

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The good senator should be flagged for infecting the American public with mind-staggering stupid.

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I don't think he has to worry, since the effects could easily be achieved through SOPA.

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As a canadian, I really hope this isn't representative of our southern neighbours.

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Its representative of us Canadians. This appears to be how "average" people think. The government is the only thing that protects us from the evils of each other.

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Lieberman is proof positive that one need not be intelligent or even well-informed to be a policy maker in the American government, merely well connected.

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Dear Joe:

Thank you for your correspondence and your request for a new Blogger feature.

Unfortunately, only those who upgrade to paid memberships to our service may request new features.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Thank you for your interest in Blogger.

Yours sincerely,

The Blogger Team

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Alternatively...

Excerpt from Blogger Changelog:

* * *

20112211 Terrorist button [LiebermanJ]

* *

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How can I flag Lieberman as terrorist?

No, sorry, he's worse than that. A terrorist kills a couple of people, a few hundred if he's really lucky. By contrast, this guy is a big contributor in screwing a nation of 300 million people. How do I flag such devastating damage?

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