AT&T vs 4chan - the aftermath

Yesterday, AT&T apparently decided to block the notorious website 4chan.org (site very much NSFW). Reports indicate the situation has resolved itself, but the story is still worth telling.

According to CentralGadget, AT&T has confirmed that they are “currently blocking portions of the internet site 4chan.org”, but states that they are “following the practices of their policy department.” (They refused to reveal the specific reason for the block.) AT&T also claimed to have attempted to contact the site owner, but according to the 4chan status page, site owner Moot had no contact with AT&T.

So AT&T blocked a site for an unspecified period of time and apparently for reasons beyond just objecting to the content, but has now restored access. How is this still a story?

Mostly what makes this interesting is the speed with which the denizens of 4chan.org responded. AT&T was a trending topic on Twitter, a YouTube video calling for a viewers to take a stand against AT&T's policy was put together, and an exhaustive wiki page (NSFW language) full of details on both the blockage and contact information for protesting the action was compiled.

It wasn't just 4chan.org users who were upset. AT&T's actions were seen as an immediate threat to net neutrality and the start of what's being called "The Great Firewall" (basically censorship of the web in the US and beyond). In this case, the evidence suggests that AT&T was blocking the site due to legitimate security concerns, but given the nature of 4chan.org it wasn't hard to imagine this was a content-related issue.

It was good to see that internet citizens weren't complacent about these actions, and were more than willing to take a stand against (what they thought was) internet censorship.

UPDATE: Moot has a new post up explaining what happened, saying it was a "a bit of a mistake and a poorly executed, disproportionate response on AT&T's part." So it appears no real malice was intended on the part of AT&T.

We're glad to see this short-lived debacle has prompted renewed interest and debate over net neutrality and internet censorship—two very important issues that don't get nearly enough attention—so perhaps this was all just a blessing in disguise. –Moot

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