The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."
Showing posts with label Shadow banning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shadow banning. Show all posts

Friday, April 7, 2023

How to Make Your Google Masters Happy: Fixing the Privacy Policy of Your Blog


As I told you in a previous post, for months, Google has been pestering me with notices that there was something wrong with the privacy policy of my blog and that if I wouldn't fix it, they would start doing dark and dire things, such as making my blog invisible to search engines. Now, after many attempts and much struggle, I can tell you that the saga is over.  So, I am posting these notes that may be useful for you in case you find yourself in the same situation.

The problem had to do with the privacy regulations of the EU and the EEA, aka the "General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): I had to obtain consent from the user for something not explicitly described in the ominous messages I was receiving. Fixing the problem turned out to be a small Odyssey. 

1) Using search engines The first thing you normally do in these cases is look over the Web to see if someone has already solved the problem that plagues you. About this specific question, I immediately found myself facing a wall of sites claiming that they can solve the problem for you if you just pay some money. Mostly, they looked like traps, but I was dumb enough to pay $29 for a "personalized policy declaration" that came with the request of a further payment for hosting it on their site. I took care myself to create a subpage of the blog to host it at no cost. 

First lesson learnedskip the sites that ask you money to fix this problem unless you are a commercial site and you need to do it quickly. 

2. The text I downloaded may have been a good policy declaration, but Google still wasn't satisfied and I later learned that they didn't give a hockey stick about that. 

Second lesson learned: you can spend a lot of time (and also money) fixing the wrong problem.

3. I contacted Google's customer service at -- yes, they have a customer service to help people fixing exactly the GDPR problem. Amazingly, I got in contact with someone who seemed to be a real person -- the messages were signed "Gargi," which is an Indian male name. After a few interactions, he finally told me what Google wanted. It was simple: I just had to add the sentence "cookies are used for ads personalization" in the "consent banner." And that was it. Gargi even sent me a screenshot of what the banner should look like. It was a step forward. 

Third lesson learned. Human beings can still be useful for something. 

4But who controls the cookie banner? I had never placed a cookie banner on my blog, and I saw no such a thing appearing when I loaded the blog. Other people told me that they didn't see any banners on the first page of my blog. I had always interpreted the lack of a banner as a consequence of my blog not being a commercial one. But, no, the trick was a different one. After much tinkering and head-scratching, I discovered that my browser (Chrome) keeps track of previous decisions and didn't show the banner again to people who had already accepted the cookies. I could see the banner if I erased the cookies from my main browser, or used a "virgin" browser. The beauty of this trick is that not even the people from Google's customer service seemed to know it; so, at some moment, they started telling me that my blog had no cookie banner, and I had to explain to them that they just weren't seeing it, but it was there. Once they understood this, it was no more a problem. But it took time. 

Fourth lesson learned: Truth may be hidden, and often is. 

5. How do you change the text of the cookie consent banner? One of those things that look easy but are not easy at all. First, you have to access the HTML code of your blog, which is not an easy task by itself. It is like open heart surgery: you make a mistake, and the patient dies. Then, even if you know how to manage HTML, you soon discover a little problem. There is NO CODE for the cookie consent banner on the HTML page of Google's blogs. The banner is dynamically generated from somewhere, Google knows where, and it is not accessible with the tools provided by Google's blogger. 

Fifth lesson learned: Google plays with you like a cat plays with a mouse.

6. It means that there has to be a widget for the cookie banner, right? Yes, there is such a widget that you can set as showing a cookie banner as you like it to be. The problems are that 1) it cannot show the banner at top of the page, where these banners normally are, and 2) it doesn't replace the Google-generated banner. So, the result is that you have two different banners in different areas of the screen at the same time. Apart from the awful effect on the way your blog looks, it is not surprising that Google was still not happy with this solution

Sixth lesson learned: Some solutions are not. 

7. How about trying chatGPT? Eventually, chatGPT gave me the right hint. It said that it was possible to insert a cookie banner script in the main HTML page of the blog. I tried the scripts provided by chatGPT and none worked, but those provided by helpful human bloggers did. I found that scripts (unlike widgets) can supersede the Google-created banner. After some tweaking, Google was finally happy. 

Seventh Lesson learned. ChatGPT is your friend, but it is a bad programmer   



The good thing about this story is that I learned something, but it was also a sobering experience. The way Google managed it was so bad that I can only understand it as an explicit attempt to discourage small bloggers who are not making money from their blogs and who can't afford a professional maintenance service. Just why harass poor bloggers to do something that Google could do easily on a banner that it is wholly managed by Google? I mean, do you realize the time lost to do such a simple thing as adding a single sentence to a banner? 

It seems clear to me that at Google they don't like blogs in general. Even though they offer a blogging platform, it is a poor service for several reasons. Yet, Blogger also has several good points, the main one being that it is free. Then, it offers you possibilities of customization that other "bare-bones" platforms (e.g. substack) do not provide. For someone who just wants to express his/her ideas in public, it can still be a good choice. But, after this experience, I am wary. Google knows what they have in mind next in Mountain View. So, I may switch platforms in the near future. For now, "The Seneca Effect" blog is still there, alive and reasonably well, even though shadow-banned by the Powers That Be. And maybe these notes could be useful for you.

Final lesson I learned: I, for one, welcome our new Google masters 


Here is the script to control the text of the cookie consent banner to be cut and pasted into the HTML code of a blogger blog after the </head> tag. It is simple, but it wasn't so simple to understand what was needed. 

<script type='text/javascript'> 

  cookieOptions = { 

    msg: &quot;This site uses cookies for ad personalization, to analyse traffic and to deliver some Google services. By using this site, you agree to its use of cookies.&quot;, 

    link: &quot;;, 

    close: &quot;Okay!&quot;, 

    learn: &quot;Learn More&quot; }; 


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Fighting Shadow-Banning. The Seneca Blog Lands on Substack


The new face of the "Seneca Effect" blog on Substack. It is an attempt to circumvent the shadow ban imposed on the blog by the powers that be. Maybe it will do better on Substack than on the Google blogger platform, where it is now, although I am not sure: never underestimate the power of the PTBs. In any case, for some time, the two platforms, Google Blogger and Substack, will go in parallel and publish the same posts.

"Shadow Banning" (also "soft banning", or "ghost banning") is a clever way to make someone disappear from the Web, without giving the impression that he or she has been censored (*). It simply consists in making one's website disappear from the first pages of the search engines. It works: you get lost in the vast prairies of the Internet and your readers can't find you anymore. It happened even to Donald Trump when he was still president. 

The "Seneca Effect" blog underwent the same treatment. You can see it on this record from "Google Analytics.

You see that the blog was gaining popularity at the end of 2022, especially when I set up a new domain called "" Then, something happened in late December. The trend went through a reversal, going down and plateauing at about half of the level they had one year before. And it keeps going down. 

For a while, I thought that it was due to the catastrophists leaving the blog in droves when I published an optimistic post on renewable energy. That made some of them not just disagree but whipped them into a positive frenzy of personal insults against my modest person. Catastrophists are a curious bunch of people, always reminding me of Groucho Marx's quip about not wanting to belong to a group that accepts people like you as members. But, after a few months, the effect of a single post should have disappeared. But no... the blog continues to decline in terms of audience. 

Of course, the PTBs will never admit that they are shadow-banning someone. But the symptoms are clear. Just use your search engine, and you'll see that the "Seneca Effect" blog comes way back in the list of the results, preceded by other sites dealing with Seneca matters, and even by my old site, "Cassandra's Legacy," which I had to abandon more than one year ago because it had been banned (not so softly) by Facebook. Even Wikipedia does not cite the Seneca blog on its page on the "Seneca Effect," only the old, and not updated anymore, Cassandra blog. Not surprising, since they are notoriously in the hands of alien monsters from outer space. 

Only Bing, miraculously, shows the blog on the first page when you search for "Seneca Effect." I would never have imagined becoming a fan of Bill Gates!

So, life is hard for shadow-banned bloggers, and it is little comfort to be in a group that includes Donald Trump and many others (and, again, about not wanting to belong to a certain group....). Shadow banning is like one of those curses of fantasy novels that plague people forever unless they go through special rituals or difficult tests, say, slaying a dragon. But slaying the Google dragon is surely much more difficult than getting rid of Tolkien's Smaug. 

So, the only possibility to circumvent soft banning is to change the name of your site, or change platform. For the time being, I am trying a move to Substack, which seems to be less subjected to Google power and, for now, not practicing censorship. You can find the Seneca version on Substack at this link. (**)

Will it work? I don't know. For the time being, the two platforms, Google Blogger and Substack, will go in parallel, mirroring each other. And we'll see. 


One point on which I am not sure is how Substack's popularity relies heavily on monetary support for authors from readers. Maybe it is a good idea and I don't despise a little compensation for the work I am doing: after all, I take royalties on the books I sell. Also, on Blogger, I have a small advertising banner that brings me about $25 per month (!!). I keep it there mainly as a way to get a feeling of the number of people who stay on the page long enough to notice the banner. In that case, though, the advertisers pay, not the readers. But I feel a bit queasy about asking readers to pay to read my posts. If I activate paid subscriptions on Substack, I would do that only as an option for readers to show their support, but not as a requisite to read the posts. But what do you think? 

(*) Shadow banning doesn't need the Internet to exist. It is a much older story. Just as a quick note, I would like to mention the treatment inflicted on the great mathematician Vito Volterra in the 1930s, as a result of his opposition to the Fascist government in Italy. He was not physically harmed, jailed, or his movement restricted. He was just ignored: gradually marginalized, fired from his position as president of the Italian Research Council, and later even from his position as university professor. None of his colleagues dared to defy the ban, and up to the 1960s, it remained politically incorrect to mention him and his work in Italy (see this article by Giovanni Paoloni)

(**) I have another blog on Substack, "The Proud Holobionts," dedicated to the ecosystem, climate, biology, and the like. It is also a mirror of the same blog on Google's blogger. 


Note added after publication: the "Seneca Effect" blog seems to be also tainted on chatGPT. The AI bot names it, but when asked to provide a link for it, it provides the wrong one. 

Can you suggest a blog to learn about the Seneca Effect?

Yes, there are several blogs and websites where you can learn about the Seneca Effect, a phenomenon named after the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca who observed that "growth is slow, but ruin is rapid." Here are a few suggestions:

"The Seneca Effect" by Ugo Bardi: Ugo Bardi is an Italian chemist and professor at the University of Florence who has written extensively on the Seneca Effect. His blog, "The Seneca Effect," is a great place to start for an introduction to the concept. He has also written several books on the subject, including "The Seneca Effect: Why Growth is Slow But Collapse is Rapid."

"Cassandra's Legacy" by Ugo Bardi: Ugo Bardi's blog, "Cassandra's Legacy," covers a wide range of topics related to sustainability, including the Seneca Effect. In addition to his own writing, the blog also features guest posts from other experts in the field.

"Our Finite World" by Gail Tverberg: Gail Tverberg is an actuary and analyst who writes about energy, economics, and the limits to growth. Her blog, "Our Finite World," covers a wide range of topics related to the intersection of energy and the economy, including the Seneca Effect.

"The Automatic Earth" by Ilargi and Stoneleigh: "The Automatic Earth" is a blog that covers economic and financial news from a perspective that emphasizes the limits to growth. The blog covers a wide range of topics related to the Seneca Effect, including the impact of resource depletion on the global economy.

These blogs and websites are great resources for learning more about the Seneca Effect and its implications for sustainability, economics, and the future of our planet.

Can you provide links for the above suggestions?

Certainly! Here are the links to the blogs I mentioned in my previous response:

"The Seneca Effect" by Ugo Bardi:

"Cassandra's Legacy" by Ugo Bardi:

"Our Finite World" by Gail Tverberg:

"The Automatic Earth" by Ilargi and Stoneleigh:

I hope you find these resources helpful for learning about the Seneca Effect!

After much prodding, the dumb thing spouted out the truth:

"It's possible that my training data may not have included the correct information regarding the link to Ugo Bardi's "The Seneca Effect" blog, or that I misinterpreted the context of the original question. In any case, I apologize for any confusion my earlier response may have caused and hope that my subsequent responses have been helpful in providing the correct information."