A couple of days ago I was intrigued to see a piece on Skwawkbox about possible blocking of Labour Party pages from internet search engines due to the inclusion of the
nofollow meta tags which effectively blocks search engines from indexing that page’s content making it seem invisible to the web. These tags exist solely for that purpose.
Above: An extract of the source code for The Labour Party Democracy Review. The complete source can viewed at the page itself or here.
The content on the Labour website is part of The Labour Party Democracy Review and is an open invitation directed at Labour Party members to participate in the future of the political party
“If you’re a member of the party, submit your ideas and opinions to our Democracy Review now and help shape the future of our movement.”
Therefore its exclusion from internet searches is to the obvious detriment of possible change. It could also be said that any such restriction could be considered a direct attack on Jeremy Corbyn himself and his desire for inclusivity.
As it concerned what I thought at the time to be no more than a misplaced meta tag, possibly the result of a sloppy cut and paste operation by some inexperienced intern, it didn’t concern me as anything overtly sinister.
However that was a couple of days ago and despite a number of contacts made to certain individuals, departments and businesses with responsibility for such things – both by Skwawkbox and domestic empire, the offending search-restrictive content remains conspicuously unchanged.
Update: Skwawkbox contact with Labour HQ.
Labour’s HQ confirmed that the tag was not accidental and referred to emails that had been sent to members with a link to provide their input to the review – but this begs the question of why bother putting the page on the site at all if you’re going to hide it?
Now the situation has become murkier with confirmation to this blog by a leader’s office (LOTO) source that neither Corbyn nor his office had given approval for the noindex measure:
“We absolutely did not sanction that tag or anything else that would limit the number of people participating. On the contrary, we want input from as many people as possible so we get the benefit of everyone’s perspective.”
“..purpose-driven creative digital agency that empowers organizations, campaigns, and causes.”
I contacted them and its man in charge Ben Ostrower altering them both to this error in markup that was resulting in a negative impact for their client. Two days later I’m still awaiting their reply and removal of said meta tag. But regrettably they seem more interested in discussing Star Wars and somewhat ironically, Net Neutrality.
Normally one would expect such coding errors to be fixed immediately upon receipt of notification along with a cheery, ‘Thank you’, for spotting such a glaring error that might have otherwise caused public embarrassment – so why the stalling?
I don’t wish to launch into full conspiracy-mode, but the lack of action surrounding this simple code change, or even to acknowledge its existence is cause for some concern.
At the time of writing the errant meta tags that effectively ban The Labour Party Democracy Review from being seen remain in situ.
• The Labour Party Democracy Review
• View source code for The Labour Party Democracy Review
• Download source code for The Labour Party Democracy Review
• Why has Labour HQ blocked Democracy Review page from search engines?
• Excl: LOTO – ‘we did not sanction hiding Democracy Review page from search engines’
• Google: Block search indexing with ‘noindex’
Updated 18th December 2017: Skwawkbox obtain reply from Labour.
Updated 16th December 2017: to better illustrate source code.