AT&T says it has lifted a block it put on part of the notorious 4chan.org bulletin board. AT&T says the block was a security move in response to a denial-of-service attack against one of its customers, but the incident has touched a nerve among those concerned about net neutrality and censorship.
AT&T blocked portions of the 4chan.org bulletin board July 25 and 26 in
response to denial-of-service attacks against an AT&T customer,
touching off a debate on censorship and network neutrality.
In response to criticism, AT&T stressed that it moved against 4chan.org
because of the attack, and not because of content posted there.
"Beginning Friday [July 24], an AT&T customer was impacted by a denial-of-service
attack stemming from IP addresses connected to img.4chan.org," AT&T
officials said in a statement. "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."
AT&T said it lifted the block on the IP addresses in question overnight July
26 after the threat was over.
"We will continue to monitor for denial-of-service activity and any
malicious traffic to protect our customers," the company said.
The move against 4chan.org set off a torrent of anger from users who felt
AT&T was playing the role of digital censor. Launched in 2003, 4chan's
message board has become notorious in some circles for its content, which users
can post anonymously.
4Chan.org founder Christopher
"Moot" Poole wrote July 26 that AT&T had not contacted
him about its actions, and urged 4chan users to contact customer support and
complain about the move. Some are speculating that some 4chan.org users may
have taken it a step further, as not long after news of the block became
public, a fake report about the death of AT&T CEO
Randall Stephenson surfaced on CNN's iReport. The story has since been
At least one other ISP-UnWired Broadband-joined AT&T in blocking
portions of the site.
"There [have] been a lot of customers on our network who were
complaining about ACK scan reports coming from 184.108.40.206," Shon Elliott,
senior network engineer at UnWired, wrote on the
NANOG (North American Network Operators Group) message board. "We had
no choice but to block that single IP until the attacks let up."