AT&T Blocks 4chan, Stirs Internet Hornet's Nest

High on the list of Things Not To Do on the World Wide Web is "hack off 4chan," the anonymous Internet message board community that blurs the line between a low-filtered Internet sounding board and launching pad for hijinks, Rickrolls, and full-scale protests. If you surfed one of the site's gateways -- especially the notorious board for random posting, "/b/" -- you might understand why an average person could take offense to the kinds of humor, images, and messages that get posted in upwards of 150,000 to 200,000 times each day.

Well, AT&T took offense, at least. According to numerous reports from users nationwide, the Internet Service Provider began blocking access to parts of 4chan -- specifically, the img.4chan.org subdomain that's used by the /b/ message board -- as early as 10 a.m. Pacific time Sunday. As the 4chan users began assembling online to wage their private war, Centralgadget.com was able to confirm with AT&T corporate that the company was, "currently blocking portions of the internet site 4chan.org."

(See related: AT&T's 4chan Block Raises Issue of Net Neutrality)

The reason? AT&T was, "following the practices of their policy department." According to the unknown AT&T representative, the company allegedly contacted 4chan site owner Christopher "Moot" Poole regarding specific requests that needed to be met to avoid the block. However, Poole maintains that he has received no communication from AT&T.

AT&T allegedly lifted the block around 12 hours after it began, with users confirming full access to 4chan's /b/ board -- before the entirety of 4chan was brought down for an unknown reason -- around 11 p.m. Pacific Time. This hasn't quelled those behind the newly created "Project AT&T" group and associated "4chan4ever" Twitter feed, however. They've since launched a Digg campaign to proclaim the false death of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and promise more Internet warfare today.

Given the level of doublespeak surrounding this entire controversy, it's hard to think that the real reason for the temporary 4chan AT&T block will see the light of day. My money's on some kind of DDoS-related issue -- either the magnitude of attacks flowing into 4chan's site, the Internet attacks of 4chan users, or a forged DDoS attack that gave the appearance of starting from 4chan. Of all the places on the Internet to target, it's just too perfect a storm to think that AT&T, out of the blue, would start a Sunday morning censorship campaign by targeting a site like 4chan.

Update-- ISP Cogent Communications is allegedly blocking the entire 4chan.org domain as well.

Update #2-- Marketing Communications Manager Travis Wachter: "Cogent has not blocked 4chan and are unsure where this originated."

Update #3-- AT&T speaks!

"Beginning Friday, an AT&T customer was impacted by a denial-of-service attack stemming from IP addresses connected to img.4chan.org. To prevent this attack from disrupting service for the impacted AT&T customer, and to prevent the attack from spreading to impact our other customers, AT&T temporarily blocked access to the IP addresses in question for our customers. This action was in no way related to the content at img.4chan.org; our focus was on protecting our customers from malicious traffic.

Overnight Sunday, after we determined the denial-of-service threat no longer existed, AT&T removed the block on the IP addresses in question. We will continue to monitor for denial-of-service activity and any malicious traffic to protect our customers."

Twitter hasn't blocked access to Geek Tech's David Murphy @acererak, so feel free to contact him there.

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