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On the afternoon of September 29, 2022, Jaime Abeytia’s blog suddenly went dark. Instead of blog posts, visitors to the blog received the message that the “blog has been removed.” There has been much speculation about the sudden disappearance of the Abeytia blog, with some suggesting it has been removed and Jaime Abeytia arguing that he is “working on some upgrades and a better platform” because he is “launching a podcast.” Abeytia added on his Facebook account on October 4 that when he brings back his blog “all the content will be back in its entirety.” [1] It should be noted that Abeytia’s first acknowledgment that his blog was suddenly shutdown was not made until after El Paso News asked him about it – five days after it went offline. Abeytia has long been controversial with several elected officials and private citizens frequently threatening to sue him for libel, slander and tortious interference.

The platform that Abeytia has been using is Blogger. It is owned by Google. Like all online platforms, Blogger has a terms-of-service that outlines the type of content they allow. Among the usual prohibitions include adult content, malware and child exploitation. Blog owners are also prohibited from harassing, bullying, or making threats, as well as posting hate speech. Because of the focus on recent controversies on the political process via online platforms, Google has also added posting “misleading content” that is “demonstrably false and could significantly undermine” the political process to its list of violations. [2]

Google has posted six actions it can take for violating its community guidelines. They include putting the violating content behind a warning that the content may be “sensitive,” unpublishing the post or “delete the offending content, post or blog.” Google adds that it can disable the author’s access to Blogger or their Google email account and report the user to law enforcement. [3]

It is unclear why Abeytia’s blog suddenly went dark from the message that visitors see today. The “blog has been removed” message can indicate that Abeytia closed his Blogger account or that Google deleted the account. Abeytia has written that he is moving his blog to another platform and has closed it. However, Google has previously suspended Abeytia’s blog for community violations.

Previous Google Suspension

Abeytia’s blog was previously suspended in early July 2021 by Google for “violating community standards.” Abeytia has speculated that his suspension was caused by Anthony Aguero. [4] Aguero had become controversial for entering the Capitol building during the January 6, 2021, Capitol attacks. [5]

July 7, 2021 Suspension of Blog.

Abeytia’s last post before his suspension in 2021 was on June 28. Within nine days Abeytia again had access to his blog, acknowledging the suspension on July 7. At the time of his 2021 suspension, the only noticeable difference by visitors to his blog was the lack of new posts. Today, the message visitors to his blog see is that the “blog has been removed.” This can indicate one of two things. The first is that Abeytia shutdown his blog on his own accord, as he has suggested, or that Google terminated his blog for violations of its terms of service.

On June 18, 2021, a Facebook Messenger group was launched to file complaints against Abeytia with Google. By the time the group ended communicating on July 23, there had been about 20 active members in the group. Among the members were several politicians. Although Abeytia blamed Aguero for the suspension, it appears that the concerted effort on Facebook – with members submitting complaints to Google – may have been the reason for the 2021 suspension of Abeytia’s blog.

More important, however, is that during the 2021 suspension, Abeytia’s blog remained viewable. As Abeytia reported, his suspension meant he was unable to post new content. In the current case, Abeytia’s blog is not reachable suggesting that the current situation for Abeytia is not that he is suspended or that he decided to move his content to another platform, but that his Google account has been closed by Google.

Unfortunately, Google does not comment on the actions it takes regarding its users on the Blogger platform.

Abeytia, who has an extensive criminal record, launched his blog in 2007. [6] In 2009, Abeytia occasionally posted on the first version of the now defunct online publication, the Newspaper Tree under the pseudonym the Lion’s Den. In 2016, then-city representative Emma Acosta put a motion on the city council agenda targeted at limiting Abeytia’s access to the city’s records via open records requests. Acosta denied that she was targeting Abeytia. However, it was clear from the public testimony that Acosta had targeted Abeytia with her motion.

City council took no action on Acosta’s motion. [7] Acosta, however, argued that Abeytia had a criminal past of computer hacking that allowing him access to sensitive information like telephone numbers that could be dangerous to the public. Abeytia accepted deferred adjudication on a computer breach charge in 2004. Ten years later, Abeytia pleaded guilty to breach of computer security for a 2013 incident in which Abeytia showed nude pictures of his ex-wife to his two daughters. Abeytia was sentenced to probation on that case.

A History Of Individuals Threatening To Sue Abeytia

Over the years several elected officials and private individuals have complained about how Abeytia defames them or others through his blog posts. In 2015, Barbara Carrasco had her attorney issue a cease-and-desist letter telling Abeytia to stop publishing “defamatory statements about Mrs. Carrasco.” [8]

On June 23, 2020, Marlene Gonzalez filed a petition with the court asking the court to issue an order to allow Gonzalez to depose Laura Strathmann and Jaime Abeytia. According to the court filing, Gonzalez was asking the court to allow her to depose Abeytia and Strathmann to investigate a possible lawsuit for “libel” or “defamation.” [9] Gonzalez was running to unseat Strathmann for the 388th District Court judgeship. Gonzalez won the seat. As reported by us, a video showing Strathmann stealing her opponent’s political sign circulated on social media before the election. Strathmann blamed her neighbor for taking Gonzalez’ political sign by stating that he had asked her to remove it. A second video was later posted to Facebook where the neighbor refuted Strathmann’s allegation that it was him who asked her to remove it.

The reason Gonzalez wanted to depose Abeytia was a post Abeytia made on his blog based on a mysterious email and website. An email was sent on May 12, 2020, from an account named “Laura Strathmann” alleging that Gonzalez was “engaging in improper conduct.” A corresponding webpage was also created. In addition to deposing Strathmann about the email and the webpage, Gonzalez also sought to depose Abeytia about his knowledge of the email and the Facebook page because he had referenced both on his blog on a post dated on May 14, 2020. [10]

At issue was the fake webpage created by an unknown individual that was falsely attributed to Marlene Gonzalez. Gonzalez, in an affidavit denied creating the webpage, although Strathmann accused her of doing so. [11] The May 12, 2020, email, signed by “Judge Laura Strathmann,” alleges that Gonzalez had “assumed” Strathmann’s identity and created the fake webpage. [12]

Using the fake webpage, which Gonzalez denied creating or managing under oath, and the Strathmann email, Abeytia posted a blog post on May 14, 2020, accusing Gonzalez of “dirty politics.” The case was later dropped without deposing Abeytia.

In addition to the threats to sue Abeytia, several complaints have been filed against him both at Google, and at least one complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). An FCC complaint was filed against Abeytia alleging that Abeytia’s use of an “accident report is illegal and against the law.” According to the complaint, Abeytia had posted an accident report on his blog that was not released as part of a public information request. [13]

Was It Terminated Or Shut Down?

It makes no sense that a blogger would shut down his blog erasing the important search engine optimization (SEO) that a 15-year-old blog creates over time. More notable is that removing a blog completely without notifying readers of when it will come back or where it is moving to also makes little sense.

In 2011, another El Paso blogger was accused of libel. David Karlsruher, who publishes a blog: Refuse the Juice, posted an apology letter on his blog to settle the case. The August 1, 2011, letter stated that Karlsruher posted a blog where he made statements about local attorney Stuart L. Leeds which “were inaccurate.” Karlsruher apologized to Leeds for writing the inaccurate post in the letter.

David Karlsruher apology letter, August 1, 2011 – screen shot

Although Karlsruher subsequently removed his apology letter from his blog, he continued to post regularly until March 4, 2020. Although he no longer posts, Karlsruher’s blog remains open to the public over two years later, unlike Abeytia’s blog that remains closed today.

Judgement Proof

One of the arguments frequently made against suing Abeytia for his blog content is that Abeytia is “judgement proof.” Texas law protects certain assets from seizure to satisfy a debt. Generally, an individual is considered “judgement proof” when it is unlikely, they will be able to pay a judgment won in civil court. Because a lawsuit can be expensive, suing an individual considered to be “judgement proof” is counterproductive in that the cost to file the lawsuit will be borne by the individual filing the lawsuit and not Abeytia.

However, as demonstrated by the application by Marlene Gonzalez to depose Abeytia in 2020, the danger in a lawsuit filed against Abeytia is not the cost to Abeytia, but rather the potential to expose others who encourage Abeytia to post content that many have likened to malicious, libelous or defamatory through depositions under oath. As Gonzalez sought to demonstrate, through her deposition, Abeytia may have knowledge on who created the fake website he used to write about Gonzalez. By bringing civil lawsuits, others can prove connections between Abeytia’s posts and the politicians that encourage him to write for political purposes. Erasing the content from his blog helps to mitigate the exposure to elected officials.

Why Is The Site Down?

Since the website went dark many theories have been made as to what happened. Among them are the individuals that Abeytia has targeted in his last posts before the site went dark. They include District Attorney Yvonne Rosales, San Elizario Mayor Isela Reyes and the El Paso County Democratic Party.

Screenshots of last four Abeytia posts.

However, there are many other individuals that have worked to close Abeytia’s blog over the years. El Paso News reached out to several of the individuals, and all were surprised to learn that Abeytia’s blog was turned off. In recent posts, Abeytia has targeted Isela Reyes and Yvonne Rosales. It is unknown if either were involved in shutting down Abeytia’s site. However, it is unlikely that they were involved in the site being shut down, although Reyes has indicated that she may sue Abeytia at some point over his blog posts of her.

Two individuals recently approached El Paso News alleging that they know who shut down the site. The first alleged that it had to do with Abeytia’s last post about campaign finance reform. The allegation was that the El Paso County Chairman, Michael Apodaca had complained to Abeytia’s current employer – the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU did not respond to our request for comment.

However, in an email conversation, Michael Apodaca, chairman of the County El Paso Democratic Party, told El Paso News that after Abeytia and he discussed Abeytia’s blog, Apodaca reached out to the Texas AFL-CIO for his “due diligence” to see if the party was “on opposite ends” on campaign finance reform. Apodaca wrote that he was referred to the Central Labor Union, but that he “had not spoken” to them on the matter. [14]

We asked Abeytia, via email, about the closure of his blog. Abeytia responded in two emails. In his first response, Abeytia wrote that he is “launching another project.” In a follow up email, Abeytia wrote that “there is no truth” to the allegation that the local party had shut down his blog. Abeytia added in his email that he was going to wait to see what we publish, “and then republish” his blog “in its entirety.” [15]

Jaime Abeytia, October 2, 2022

The last individual that approached us asked that we not publish their name. On October 5, the individual told us in a telephone conversation that “a group” is “taking him [Abeytia] out,” and that taking the blog down was the first step in many others they had planned. The source added that a lawsuit was going to be filed against Abeytia. As of this morning, there is no lawsuit pending against Abeytia, according to online court records.

Although the source indicated that Abeytia would be served in the next few days, the lack of a court filing suggests that this is not the case.

Abeytia told us that he is working on another project and had taken the site down to move it to another platform. Although it makes no sense to take down a site before moving it to another location, Abeytia reiterated that he took the site down to start a new project and move his content to a new platform on October 4, 2022, on his Facebook page.

According to Abeytia’s Facebook post, he is “just working on some upgrades and a better platform because I’m gonna [sic] get with the times and finally launch my podcast that I’ve been talking about.” Abeytia added that he intended it to be a “surprise” but that our reporting “forced” him to make the announcement sooner. Abeytia concluded that “all the content will be back in its entirety, adding that he wasn’t going to “let years of work go away.” Abeytia wrote that he will make a public announcement on Facebook and on Twitter when he is ready.

However, none of the statements made by Abeytia explains why he would take down his site before he is ready to announce his new platform. Moreover, taking down the site without an announcement that he is making changes, especially if they are planned, suggests that the site is involuntarily offline.

What’s Next?

Blogger provides a mechanism for migrating content from it to another platform. The owner would have to create an XML file. The XML file is a file containing all the content in a format that can be used in another platform. However, the file must be created before the site is deleted by the owner or terminated by Google. It is unclear if Abeytia has such a file, or not.

Google is not transparent about why it removes blogs or in confirming if they took action on a blog. In 2016, an acclaimed novelist, Dennis Cooper found that his blog of over ten years had suddenly vanished. In its place was a message like what is on Abeytia’s blog today. Cooper’s Gmail account was also deleted. The only thing Cooper knew was that Google told him he had violated their terms of service. Cooper did not know, nor was he told by Google what the violation was. [17]

Just us suddenly as it was taken down, Google turned Cooper’s blog back on about two months later. Google never clearly explained why it had deemed Cooper’s blog to be violating its terms of service. However, the return of Cooper’s blog did not happen until after much publicity about it on publications like the New York Times and the Guardian. The publicity likely led Google to reinstate Coopers’ blog. [18]

Whether the Jaime Abeytia site returns is not known. It could take weeks, months or it may never return. What remains unanswered is why is the site down. Is it because it was taken down by Google for an undisclosed violation, or is it, as Abeytia argues, because he suddenly decided to shut it down before moving it to another platform.

El Paso News will continue to monitor the situation and as more information becomes available we will report on the latest developments.

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Footnotes:

  1. Jaime Abeytia Facebook post October October 4, 2022.
  2. Blogger Content Policy accessed on October 6, 2022, https://www.blogger.com/content-policy.
  3. Blogger Content Policy.
  4. Jaime Abeytia, “My Account Was Suspended,” Blog post, July 7, 2021.
  5. “Ex-El Paso congressional candidate says he was inside Capitol, now planning caravan for inauguration,” KTSM, January 11, 2021.
  6. “Political blogger the ‘Lionstar’ to stop Dec. 31,” KVIA, March 19, 2014, https://kvia.com/news/2014/03/19/political-blogger-the-lionstar-to-stop-dec-31/.
  7. Genevieve Curtis, “City rep attempts to limit public information, accused of intimidation tactics,” KFOX 14, March 8, 2016, https://kfoxtv.com/news/local/city-council-gets-into-heated-debate-over-public-records-requests.
  8. Hugo Madrid letter to Jaime Abeytia, March 1, 2015, reg: Barbara Carrasco.
  9. Petition of Marlene Gonzalez, Requesting a Deposition of Laura Strathmann and Jaime Abeytia, “First Amended Petition Requesting Deposition To Investigate Potential Claim Or Suit,” (2020DCV1953), 327th District Court, June 23, 2020.
  10. Petition of Marlene Gonzalez.
  11. Affidavit of Marlene Gonzalez, August 27, 2020.
  12. Laura Strathmann email to various recipients, May 12, 2020.
  13. FCC Complaint Ticket No. 1284758, October 24, 2016, response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
  14. Michael Apodaca, chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party email correspondence with author, October 3, 2022.
  15. Jaime Abeytia email correspondence with author, October 2, 2022.
  16. Aja Romano, “A writer kept a blog for 10 years. Google deleted it. Why?,” Vox, July 30, 2016, https://www.vox.com/2016/7/30/12303070/dennis-cooper-blog-deleted-google.
  17. Kevin L. Jones, “Google Returns Blog to ‘Dangerous Writer’ Dennis Cooper, KQED, August 26, 2016, https://www.kqed.org/arts/11818683/google-gives-back-blog-to-writer-after-removing-it-for-decade-old-image.

Martin Paredes

Reporting on public corruption, border politics, immigration and public policy in El Paso since 2000.

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