Monday, July 19, 2010

Blogetery Shutdown, WordPress, Al Qaeda, the FBI, and C3PO

It made a memorable line in a famous movie:
"No! Shut them all down! Hurry!"
(C3PO, Star Wars Episode IV, via entertonement.com)
And, in context, C3PO's instructions to R2D2 were appropriate.

Ordering someone to 'shut them all down' isn't always a good idea, though.

Last Friday, I read about 73,000 WordPress blogs hosted by Blogetery going silent. I was - concerned. Particularly since, hyperventilating Tweets and blog posts notwithstanding: all those blogs apparently had been silenced.The least-unlikely explanation I ran into was that Blogetery had been involved in some sort of intellectual property rights infringement.

I wasn't going to suggest that terrorism was involved, one way or the other: there were enough wild rumors flying around as it was. So I missed my chance to write 'told you so.' Which is okay.

Earlier today, I read that the FBI had called for Blogetery's shutdown because one (1) blog hosted on their servers had terrorist-related materials on it.

So the feds shut down all 73,000?! That seemed - excessively zealous. Unless law enforcement had reason to suspect that someone on the Blogetery staff was the one who had planted the terrorist-related data - in which case the only safe thing to do would be to shut everything in Blogetery down, until technicians could go through the code and equipment.

Check Facts, THEN Issue Orders

Apparently, some hapless employee - misinterpreted? - what the FBI, or someone, had said, and told both Blogetery and the media that the FBI had said 'shut them all down.'
"...But [Burst.net chief technology officer Joe] Marr said a Burst.net employee erred in telling Blogetery's operator and members of the media that the FBI had ordered it to terminate Blogetery's service. He said Burst.net did that on its own...."
(CNET)
What still isn't clear is why old-school news media in America hadn't reported on the Blogetery shutdown. I suspect that my father's advice may apply here: "Never ascribe to malice, what can be explained by stupidity."

Or, in the case of old-school media, institutional inertia and a monumental level of cluelessness about Information-Age issues.

Conspiracy? I Rather Doubt It

The 'addled employee' explanation could be part of some sort of plot to silence somebody or other. Or to prove that America's federal government can silence critics, or to keep people from knowing the the mothership finally came for Elvis.

But I don't think so.

I also don't think that we know everything there is to know, about what happened to Blogetery. But I'm not as concerned as I was on Friday. The explanation first given on CNET is plausible, given how excitable people can get when the FBI, blogs, and terrorists are involved.

My guess is that somebody, somewhere along the line, overreacted - big time - and caused a whole lot of unnecessary excitement.

Or maybe not-so-unnecessary.

Cloud Computing and Solid Realities

I've briefly discussed cloud computing in another blog. I think the idea is attractive: and somewhere between impractical and dangerous right now.

The Blogetery shutdown shows, I think, how vulnerable data stored on someone else's server is.

About Blogetery and the missing blogs: I suggest reading that CNET article. Of the published reports I've read, it seems to be the best-researched and calm discussion of what we know to date.

Do I Trust America? The FBI?

I've made the point that, in my opinion, America isn't perfect. I am convinced that this country is run by human beings. Mistakes happen, and sometimes bad things are done on purpose.

But, on the whole, I think that America is a pretty good place to live. And, yes: I 'trust the government.' To the extent that I must assume that, on average, its institutions act in accord with a set of laws that are intended to prevent officials from doing serious harm to American citizens.

The CNET account describes what appears to be a legal operation of the FBI, done with judicial approval: in which some yahoo overreacted and added fodder for a new crop of conspiracy theories.

The FBIPressOffice, on Twitter, linked to the FBI's 'top 10 of the week' lists on Friday, July 16, and hasn't mentioned anything about the Blogetery situation since then.

Which I don't find too surprising, since the (real) issue is probably still under investigation.

I've put excerpts from four news articles after the links, interspersed with brief comments.

Related posts, aboutIn the news:
Excerpts:
"Blogging platform Blogetery.com was cut off by its hosting company last week after the authorities said al-Qaeda 'terrorist material' was found on one of its servers, its web host, BurstNET Technologies said Monday.

"Blogetery, a platform for some 70,000 blogs, was taken down by BurstNET after the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked BurstNET 'to provide information regarding ownership' of the server hosting Blogetery.com, BurstNET said in a statement.

"BurstNET shuttered Blogetery at its own discretion after concluding it was violating its 'Acceptable Use Policy.'..."
(Threat Level, Wired)
This is the most recently-published article I read today. The 'AUP' violation explanation makes sense, particularly since there seems to have been a pattern of bad behavior. Still: 73,000 blogs?
"The blogosphere and online message boards have been buzzing with speculation as to why blogging website Blogetery.com, which claims to have hosted more than 70,000 bloggers, was suddenly shut down last week.

"Was the site a haven for terrorists? Packed with how-to advice for bomb builders? Rife with child porn? And did the FBI really order the blogging site's host BurstNET to pull the plug?

"BurstNET officials on Monday attempted to set the record straight by issuing the following statement:

" 'On the evening of July 9, 2010, BurstNET received a notice of a critical nature from law enforcement officials, and was asked to provide information regarding ownership of the server hosting Blogetery.com. It was revealed that a link to terrorist material, including bomb-making instructions and an al-Qaeda "hit list", had been posted to the site. Upon review, BurstNET determined that the posted material, in addition to potentially inciting dangerous activities, specifically violated the BurstNET Acceptable Use Policy. This policy strictly prohibits the posting of 'terrorist propaganda, racist material, or bomb/weapon instructions". Due to this violation and the fact that the site had a history of previous abuse, BurstNET elected to immediately disable the system.'..."
(PCWorld)
That "was the site a haven" style reminds me of some of the more colorful journalism of the late 19th and 20th centuries - and that's another topic.

I'm presenting these excerpts in reverse chronological order, by the way: most recent to earliest.
"A popular website that hosted more than 70,000 bloggers was shut down suddenly last week after the FBI informed its chief technology officer that the site contained hit lists, bomb-making documents and links to Al Qaeda materials, it was reported on Monday.

"When the WordPress platform Blogetery.com went dead, the initial explanation from the site's host, Burst.net, was that 'a law-enforcement agency' had ordered it to shut down, citing a 'history of abuse.' The explanation caused a wave of conspiracy theories in the blogosphere.

"But according to a report on CNET Monday, Burst.net shut down Blogetery.com when it became spooked by a letter from the FBI, in which the bureau detailed the presence of terrorist materials among the blog posts...."
(FOXNews)
"Spooked" isn't quite the sort of stuffy prose that a more literary outlet might employ - but I think it fits what we know, to date.

Finally, what I regard as the must-read article, from CNET. There's more detail, after this excerpt:
"More details are surfacing about why Blogetery.com, a blogging platform that claimed to service more than 70,000 blogs, was mysteriously booted from the Internet by its Web-hosting company.

"The site was shut down after FBI agents informed executives of Burst.net, Blogetery's Web host, late on July 9 that links to al-Qaeda materials were found on Blogetery's servers, Joe Marr, chief technology officer for Burst.net, told CNET. Sources close to the investigation say that included in those materials were the names of American citizens targeted for assassination by al-Qaeda. Messages from Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the terrorist organization, as well as bomb-making tips, were also allegedly found on the server.

"But Marr said a Burst.net employee erred in telling Blogetery's operator and members of the media that the FBI had ordered it to terminate Blogetery's service. He said Burst.net did that on its own.

"This past weekend, reports surfaced that Blogetery was shut down by the federal government and suggested that it was likely due to copyright violations. On Sunday, CNET reported that the shutdown had nothing to do with copyright violations and that a similar service, Ipbfree.com, a platform for message boards, was shuttered within days of Blogetery. It is still unclear why Ipbfree was cut off...."
(CNET)

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Typo in the title: "Boletery"?

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

Fixed it!

Thanks.

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Blogroll

Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.