Walmart Censors My 2nd Post Asking Why They Censored My 1st Post About my Wife Being Mugged in Front of Their Oakland Store

Walmart censors my comment asking them why they censored my comment

Yesterday my wife was mugged in front of the Oakland Walmart Store. Her iPhone was stolen which honestly isn’t that big of a deal. It could have been worse. My daughters were in the car and watched it happen. They are six and eight and were upset by it. My wife is really sore today and a little beat up but mostly ok.

I posted a comment about this negative experience on their Facebook page which they censored. So I wrote a blog post about this whole sort of negative experience. After that I posted a link to the blog post asking if someone from Walmart could explain to me why they’d censored my original post. They censored this post as well. Nice work guys!

Still nobody from Walmart has said boo hoo to me or my wife about the incident. I think they should explain why they censored my post. I think they should explain why when they have a store with such a terrible reputation they can’t put a security guard out in front of it. I think they should explain why it took so long for anyone at their store to acknowledge the assault outside their store and why the manager tried to discourage my wife from reporting the incident to the police.

I don’t blame Walmart for my wife getting mugged. These things sort of happen in Oakland. I could always move out to the suburbs I suppose like a lot of other people. I do think that Walmart could do a little better job managing security around a store with an obvious problem though. Last quarter alone they made over $4 billion. Yes $4 billion with a B. You’d think putting a security guard out in front of the Oakland store wouldn’t be such a stretch for them.

I think they could also do a better job in social media. They clearly have time to respond on their Facebook page and appear quite active on it. They just don’t have time or care enough about this particular problem to do anything other than delete comments about it.

Social media is supposed to be about having authentic conversations. It also should be a place where customers can go and address real concerns and expect to be handled fairly and repsectfully.

In other super exciting news, Walmart has a big campaign out today that they are bringing layway back for electronics! How awesome is that, right? Now I can buy my wife a new phone now and not have to pay for it until after Christmas! woo hoo!

Thanks to the 369 people who retweeted the original tweet and shared the incident elsewhere in social media. It’s too bad Walmart can’t treat people a little more decently.

Hey Walmart, My Wife Was Mugged in Front of Your Oakland Store Today, Thanks for Censoring My Facebook Comment

My Comment on Walmart's Facebook Page
My Comment on Walmart’s Facebook Page

Walmart Deleting My Comment on Their Facebook Page
Walmart Deleting my Comment on Walmart’s Facebook Page

Update: I asked Walmart why the censored my post and they deleted my comment simply asking for an explantation as well.

Update #2: story on reddit here. To be clear — I am not blaming Walmart that my wife was mugged. I just sort of feel that having a conversation about putting a security guard in front of a problem store with a known parking lot issue for a company that made over $4 billion last quarter is not unreasonable. I also think the store manager could have handled the situation better. I think if Walmart wanted to delete my comments on their Facebook page about public safety at one of their stores that they could have at least taken 2 seconds out of their super busy day to explain why and their rationale.

Update #3: In hindsight I feel pretty lucky actually. I googled the Oakland Walmart store and found this article where a guy was shot and almost killed in a robbery in a Walmart parking lot a few miles away less than a year ago. No wonder why the store manager didn’t want her to call the police.

Update #4: Walmart never responded directly to me over this incident although they did repost my deleted comment on their website and explained to a reporter at MSNBC that they “accidently” deleted the comment because it tripped their profanity filter. They said my use of the word assault had “ass” in it, so it accidentally was deleted.

I came home from a wonderful day at the waterpark with my two boys earlier today to some terrible news. It turns out my wife was assaulted in front of the Oakland Walmart earlier today and had her iPhone stolen. My two girls ages 6 and 8 were in the car when it took place. My wife had her hair pulled out and tried to fight with her attacker — someone stepped in to try to help (who later said he didn’t want to get involved because you never know who her attacker’s friends were) but the woman took off in a car with a group of her friends with my wife’s phone.

“We’re never shopping at Walmart again,” my six year old daughter told me as I hugged her when I came in the house. She was still shaking even though all this had happened hours earlier. They never did end up getting the lunchbox they went there to buy for my 8 year old. My wife said Walmart was the cheapest place she could find the box my daughter wanted. School supplies for four kids are expensive these days.

I think what upset my wife the most about this whole ordeal was that this happened right in front of Walmart in broad daylight. She was within 50 feet of the store entrance. She told me that it took Walmart over 15 minutes to get involved. She said that they only got involved because someone came inside and went to the customer service area to tell the manager that there was a problem outside the store.

My wife said that the assistant manager told her that she didn’t know if the security cameras in front of the store even worked. The manager apparently didn’t want to involve the police and my wife said it was only after she insisted that the manager call the police that they were called. According to my wife the police viewed Walmart’s security camera footage, but the footage wasn’t clear enough to get a license plate number on the attacker’s car.

Apparently this Walmart has quite a reputation for being a bad place to shop. It’s review on Yelp has 2 stars with 178 ratings. Way more people have rated it 1 star (worst) than anything though. It’s reviews are littered with words like sketchy, seedy, scary. The reviews mention the problems in the parking lot over and over again. You’d think Walmart would consider putting a security guard in front a store with such problems.

I guess what especially bothers me though is that when I posted about this bad experience in a comment on Walmart’s Facebook page, how quickly it was censored away. It didn’t last more than about 10 minutes (see screenshots above) before they deleted it off the page. Did they try to contact me? No. Did they respond to my complaint in any way? No. Instead they just deleted it. They certainly had time to read it, delete it, but not the time nor care to even acknowledge that something terrible happened to one of their customers at one of their stores today.

Social media is supposed to be about having honest conversations. It’s supposed to be about customers and companies interacting in real and meaningful ways. Simply deleting comments by anyone who does not tell you how *AWESOME* Walmart is the opposite of this.

I guess maybe my six year old is right after all. Maybe we really aren’t ever shopping at Walmart ever again. Thanks for the censorship Walmart, it felt really great after today’s wonderful experience at your shitty Oakland store.

Ritual Coffee Roasters Owner Eileen Hassi Pulls Artist’s Work from Display?

Got this email today from Varese Layzer. Haven’t had a chance to look into everything yet, but this sounds like it sucks. Makes me think I should avoid buying coffee at Ritual Coffee Roasters in the future. I’ve emailed Eileen from Ritual Coffee Roasters for a response and will publish it here if I get one.

“Hi, Tom

I’m sorry I didn’t know you until one of my colleagues forwarded to me your name and that you might be interested in my story. I hope you might take a second to read about my case?

A very prominent San Francisco cafe, Ritual Coffee (, offered to show my work. I asked them to choose from among my many photographs and they said I could do what I liked as long as it was not portraits. I invited them to view the work I chose. I also asked if I could put up an artist statement. They said yes. I said it would be large and was that okay — they said yes.

I spent approximately $3,000 on the show and hundreds of hours (as you can well imagine). It was professionally framed.

The owner of the cafe tore down the statement a few days after it opened without telling me, two days ago. When I noticed this, I complained bitterly to the curator, who had been my only point person and had done all the approving, etc. He apologized and left a message with the owner. The owner, Eileen Hassi, wrote today to tell me to take the entire show down now. You can see her letter here.

In it, she says the show was too serious for a cafe and that she had goofed by not telling me this sooner. She fired the curator (who told me he was actually a volunteer) and he has renounced all responsibility for the incident. She has offered me “$300 for your time on this one.” She will not phone me or give me her phone number and has further contacted me only to say that I must take it down by Thursday.

You can see the work — pictures of furniture, believe it or not — here, and the inflammatory statement here.

I would be happy to show the work without the statement. Most people who have seen the work without the statement have found it totally harmless (which is why I added the statement, frankly!). While I’m sort of happy that the statement is such a Rite-of-Spring-riot inducer to one woman, I think she’s making a terrible mistake and that the work itself is really very pleasant if you don’t show it with the statement.

I hope this is something that interests you and your readers. I’m not sure what to do.

Thanks for reading,


Update 3-8-2012: Just got this email from Varese:

“Dear Tom,

I am happy to report that a gallery owner has invited me to show the work you wrote about last year when it was removed from Ritual Coffee.

Thank you again for taking the time to read my letter in the first place and giving it space on your very influential site. I can see that people are referred from your article to my site weekly — still.

Making Room will be shown at Krowswork Gallery, 480 23rd St., Oakland,, from March 30th to April 28th, along with two other artists’ work. (I also have another “serious” series in this show.) The opening is the evening of the 30th. You are most welcome — it would be great to meet you.”

Flickr Cites “Community Guidelines” For Censorship of Egyptian Blogger’s Photos

Flickr Cites "Community Guidelines" For Censorship of Egyptian Blogger's Photos

TechCrunch is reporting that Flickr has cited “Community Guidelines” for censoring an Egyptian blogger’s uploaded photos of Egyptian Secret Police. The photos in question were originally uploaded by Hossam Hamalawy, aka Arabawy to his Flickr account here.

According to Arabawy these photos were taken from State Security Police headquarters in Nasr City which he says “hosted one of Mubarak’s largest torture facilities.” Attention was raised over this deletion yesterday after NPR’s Andy Carvin tweeted out concerns about the removal.

According to Techcrunch, Flickr issued the following statement to them regarding the content removal:

“The images in question were removed because they were not that member’s work. As stated by the Community Guidelines, ‘Flickr accounts are intended for members to share original photos and video that they themselves have created.’

Flickr isn’t a place for members to just host images but a place where members share original photos and video; and the Flickr community is built around that. For this reason, when we discover images that violate this provision, we may remove such images from the account and, in some instances, delete the account altogether.

While we regret that this action has upset the user, he must understand that this is not a decision we ever take lightly but only as necessary to ensure that Flickr remains a great place to creatively post and share original photos and videos with friends, family and the world.”

Personally I think that this is one giant cop out on Flickr’s part. Flickr knows that Flickr is *full* of photos that are “not a member’s work.” In fact Flickr staff themselves routinely upload photos to their own personal photostreams that are “not their work.” For example, is this Flickr Maps screenshot of a Rev Dan Catt photograph really Flickr Chief Matthew Rothenberg’s own work? What about this screengrab of an AOL advertisement? Is this Rothenberg’s “own work?” How about this screengrab of a Valleywag page? While I suspect that this “flickrhq masturbating dinosaur award for excellence in the field of community abuse and advocacy,” is in fact Rothenberg’s own photograph, his own stream, as well as the streams of many other flickr staffers are full of photos that are not “their work.”

Withdrawing Arabawy’s photos of suspected torturers by citing a technicality that the photos were not “his own work,” is disingenuous. The photos were pulled because Flickr was pressured to pull the photos and chose to respond to that pressure rather than to take a stand for freedom. Flickr knows that Flickr is chock full of photographs in photostreams that are not a members own work and this act on their part simply points to another act where they have selectively applied one of their rules to suit their needs using their overly ambiguous Community Guidelines as justification. Flickr should apologize to Arabawy and restore his photoset.

Certainly there might be times that Flickr ought to consider enforcing a policy of a user “not uploading their own work.” Blatant copyright infringement. An account by someone simply hosting eBay graphics. Etc. But using this technicality to remove politically sensitive and important public domain images from a Flickr user’s photostream is not one of them.

Update: While looking closer at the photo “flickrhq masturbating dinosaur award for excellence in the field of community abuse and advocacy” in Rothenberg’s stream, it looks like it actually also isn’t “his own work” either. At least according his tags, the photo was taken by Heather Champ. I suppose when you’re the boss of flickr you can get away with this sort of blatant community guidelines violation. If you’re a journalist exposing torturers from a corrupt government on the other hand, well, not so much.

Update #2: on Slashdot here.

Update #3: It looks like the photos that were taken down off of Flickr have been republished. Anonymous Operations posted a new link to the photos and tweeted that they are a “gift to the Egyptian people.”

NY Observer on Flickr Deleting Accounts

The lack of attention being paid to Flickr, whose customer service reps appear to lack technical expertise as well as graciousness, seems like another example of Yahoo neglecting a service it bought despite that service having a large, loyal userbase. After news leaked that Yahoo planned to sunset or get rid of the social bookmarking service Delicious, fear spread that Yahoo would nix Flickr next.

Yahoo’s ultimate response to the recent Flickr drama is a good sign for fans of the service. While it was about a day late, Yahoo/Flickr did the necessary things: apologized, fixed the problem, arguably overcompensated Mr. Wilhelm, and are working on a solution to prevent the same mistake in the future. But we appreciate the reminder that the internet is not written in ink.

Flickr Nukes LEGO Group

Politics as Usual

The Flickr Censorship Division must be working overtime this week. The latest comes to us courtesy of The Brothers Brick, a blog devoted to, well, of all things, LEGO.

Apparently they had a successful little group on Flickr devoted to all things LEGO. According to the group’s creator and adminstrator he went on to his Flickr group Jan 29th only to find that it had been deleted by Flickr. He’s not sure why, but best he can tell Flickr deleted it because someone had posted a thread in the “leaks” thread about LEGO products. Rather than contact him and try to resolve whatever issue there may have been with LEGOs they just simply nuked their entire group. No warning, no explanation, just KAAABOOOOOM!!!!!! Sayonara LEGO boy.

From “The Brothers Brick”:

As the creator and an administrator of the group I was first in line to hear about it if something had gone wrong. I’d heard nothing. Over the following six days I’ve pieced together what happened. In LEGO 16+ we had a thread for leaks. All discussion in the group was only available to members of the list and one of those members had reported this thread to TLG. They had taken their usual action (lawyerly email) to flickr and Yahoo! (who are directly responsible for these issues) had decided to simply delete the entire group. Not the thread, not the links but the entire group.

I wonder if adults playing with LEGOs might have somehow violated the Flickr don’t be “that guy, you know, that guy” rule, that don’t be creepy rule?

Check out my lego set on Flickr here. Please flickr don’t delete me for having a LEGO set.

Another Bad Flickr Delete? Two Days in a Row? Say It Ain’t So Blake

An interesting comment over at the NY Observer’s story on yesterday’s “accidental” account deletion of Micro Wilhelm from Flickr user Jolengs.

Jolengs claims in the comments: “i just lost my 3200 plus photos today when i tried logging in it says – this member is no longer active…boo to yahoo, it should have been my 6th year this feb.22! ;(“

A quick look at the Jolengs account on Flickr shows that indeed it would appear to be deleted. You can see the Google cache of his page prior to yesterday here. The cache of his profile page shows that he had indeed been a long-term member of the site since 2005.

If I were Blake Irving or Carol Bartz or Matthew Rothenberg I’d probably instruct Flickr staff to stop deleting any more accounts until they can get their house in order in terms of undo delete functionality. Seriously, this situation is going from bad to worse and the story has hit the mainstream press now in a big way appearing in stories at the Los Angeles Times, TechCrunch, The Telegraph, etc.

Maybe Flickr should have actually listened to the community almost a year and a half ago when we were clamoring for this sort of functionality rather than just locking the thread of those of us who were complaining.

Another interesting update on Micro Wilhelm’s case. An anonymous commenter who claims to be a “Yahoo employee” left a comment on my other post on this story saying that Yahoo is actually working on restoring Wilhelm’s account and will have it back up in the next few days.

“Iam an yahoo employee and right now we have a backup of the data that we are restoring the photos from. The user should have all the photos back in the next day or so.”

No word if that means just that his photos are back or if all of his faves/comments/tags/etc. will also be there. But I suspect that the comment is legit as the IP address that generated it came from Yahoo Inc. in Santa Clara.

Update #1: PC World is now reporting that Flickr has increased his compensation to 25 years of Pro account, up from 4.

Yahoo statement from PC World: “Yesterday, Flickr mistakenly deleted a member’s account due to human error. Flickr takes user trust very seriously and we, like our users, take great pride in being able to take, post and share photos. Our teams are in touch with the member and are currently working hard to try to restore the contents of his account. In addition, we are providing the member with 25 years of free Flickr Pro membership. We are also actively working on a process that will allow us to easily restore deleted accounts and will roll this functionality out soon.”

Update #2: It looks like Flickr has restored Wilhelm’s account now.

Did Flickr “Accidentally” Delete Mirco Wilhelm’s Account?

In a blog post entitled “You have to be f****ing kidding Yahoo” Flickr user Mirco Wilhelm is claiming that Flickr “accidentally” deleted his own account when he reported another user for copyright violation. From Wilhelm:

Today I was a bit surprised when trying to log into my Flickr account. It didn’t remember I was logged in, but asked me for my password, knowing who I am. Then I was asked to “create” a Flickr account.

Strange, because I already had an account … for the last 5 years with about 4000 pictures in it!

The it came to me. I did report on a user account that had added me as a contact on sunday only containing obviously stolen material and complaints about having an older deleted account with similar content.

I checked the email I received from the Flickr staff. It only stated, that the account will be checked for irregulations, so I asked if they, by mistake had deleted my account.

Well, it turned out, they actually had.

Wilhelm goes on to state that he actually got an apology note back from Flickr staff for nuking the wrong account.


Unfortunately, I have mixed up the accounts and accidentally deleted yours. I am terribly sorry for this grave error and hope that this mistake can be reconciled. Here is what I can do from here:

I can restore your account, although we will not be able to retrieve your photos. I know that there is a lot of history on your account–again, please accept my apology for my negligence. Once I restore your account, I will add four years of free Pro to make up for my error.

Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do.
Again, I am deeply sorry for this mistake.


Flickr staff

Unfortunately f you look at Wilhelm’s Flickr account, all of the photos in fact now do appear to be deleted. You can see the Google cache copy of what Wilhelm’s account used to look like (including over 3,400 photos) here for the time being.

If Wilhelm’s claims are true, this is yet another troubling example of bad account deletions at Flickr. It’s terrible to think that as a user I could put thousands of hours into my Flickrstream and have it all disappear one day because a flickr staffer did an oppsie. Not backing up our data upon deletion is irresponsible on Yahoo’s part. It would be very easy for Yahoo to simply code accounts as private for one week prior to permanent deletion in order to avoid these sorts of unfortunate mistakes. Giving someone 4 years of free Flickr Pro does not make up for the destruction of over 3,400 photos and it’s irresponsible for Yahoo to continue operating Flickr in this manner.

I wonder if the Flickr staffer who nuked Mirco’s account had any of those Blake Irving Flickr margaritas prior to pressing the nuke button and if so how many?

Thanks for the heads up Nils!

Update: Wilhelm confirms his account deletion in the comments and adds, “there where close to 4000 photos in there at total, not all of them public, but still it will be a lot of work to rebuild all the web content that used these picture (like my own blogs).”

Update #2: NY Observer picks up the story here.

Update #3: On digg here and here. If you think that Flickr needs to build in a way to restore our accounts over bad deletions vote up there.

Update #4: Flickr Staffer Zack Sheppard says a new feature is coming to Flickr to enable them to restore deleted accounts. It’s about f***ing time. Hopefully they also implement a sane policy of allowing users to take self corrective action regarding Flickr problems with accounts in the future in lieu of permanent deletion.

From Zack:

“We’ve been working on the ability to restore accounts for a while and hope to have it completed early this year.

We have been in contact with Mirco and may be able to restore his account. The partial work that has been done so far may make it possible to retrieve the account. It’s only a maybe but we want to try and do everything we can to rectify this mistake.

Just as people have stated above, we also believe this is an important feature to have in place for cases like this when there was an error. As many of you know we usually do not discuss features before they are released but because of the community concern we wanted to let you know in this case. ”

Flickr also has reached out with similar statements to both the L.A. Times and NY Observer.

Update #5: The story is also now on TechCrunch here and PetaPixel here.

It’s worth noting that a strong push was made for an undo delete function back in August of 2009. At that point though Flickr just locked the thread where people were complaining and dismissed it saying that they were not working on such a feature. Why does it take a major Yahoo/Flickr PR Blunder to get them to finally give a damn?

Update #6: An anonymous commenter claiming to work for Yahoo left the following comment in the comments section of this post. “Iam an yahoo employee and right now we have a backup of the data that we are restoring the photos from. The user should have all the photos back in the next day or so.”

The IP address that they commented from reconciles as coming from headquarters at Yahoo Inc.

Hey Quora, Censorship Sucks, Anonymous Censorship Sucks Even More

Ladybug Ladybug

A few weeks ago I blogged about using Quora for photographers. I’ve been on the site pretty much daily since then and have enjoyed both participating and contributing to the service. I mostly spend time in the photography and Flickr subjects and have found lots of interesting questions and answers. I’ve answered a few questions and asked a few more myself.

But after reading this article by my friend Robert Scoble, I’m beginning to reconsider whether or not investing time in Quora makes sense. Best that I can tell Quora seems to be enabling anonymous “editors” with special powers to sanitize the site as they see fit.

From Scoble: “Turns out the question could have been collapsed by a reviewer (who isn’t paid by Quora, but given “special powers”). To fix this problem the reviewer’s name should be included on the collapsed answer, along with the reason why it was collapsed. There also should be a way to contest/appeal the downvote. Either way, whenever a question gets collapsed it should be very clear why, who did it, and what process the answerer can go through to change the answer to respond to the criticism, and get it upvoted again.”

So I guess Quora is giving some users special anonymous powers to edit the site as they see fit.

Those of you that know me know that I hate censorship. But even worse than censorship is anonymous censorship. In Scoble’s case apparently he had some very popular answers on the site that were collapsed (hidden) without any sort of explanation or accountability or anything.

I remember one of my first experiences with wikipedia. I had just come back from seeing the most amazing massive ladybug swarm. There were thousands of them, all over a tree. They turned the tree red there were so many of them. Apparently this is something that ladybugs do. I wanted to learn more about ladybugs so when I went home I looked up the ladybug entry on wikipedia. It was a good entry but the photos sucked. It had a really lame couple of bad photos of ladybugs — so I posted some of my ladybug swarming photos to the entry. They were much better photos. A couple of days later I got an email from a wikipedia editor telling me that she’d removed my photos because wikipedia wasn’t a place for my “self promotion.”

Ironically, the photo in question (above) is good enough for Getty to sell as a stock photograph, but not good enough to give away to wikipedia for free.

“Whatever,” I told myself, if they want crappier photos of ladybugs that’s their business. But that was the last time I contributed to wikipedia and even though I have thousands of photos that could improve dozens of wikipedia pages, I’ve never uploaded another one. I’ve had people specifically come to me where I’ve had unique photos asking me to contribute them to wikipedia and I usually just say no and remind them of my ladybug story. If I have a unique photo for a wikipedia page that they are missing an image for and I upload it, what good is it if some dumb ass editor is just going to delete the photo a few weeks later for some lame reason.

At least with wikipedia though the censorship was done by someone with a name. Allowing anonymous people, as seems to be happening now on Quora, the ability to delete entries is even worse.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know that I really don’t want to be involved with any social network where they give “special” users secret anonymous powers to censor. The best communities are run transparently. Allowing anonymous censorship is anything but transparency.

I hope Quora reconsiders this sort of censorship and at a minimum requires editors to disclose their name when they decide to censor a user. This might not be convenient for censors, who frequently like to hide in the shadows, but it’s certainly better for community.