Adding to its own controversy, AT&T Sunday blocked sections of the popular image-based bulletin board, 4chan, adding more fuel to the debate over network neutrality.
Web site 4chan.org reported Sunday afternoon that AT&T subscribers could not gain access to certain portions of 4chan. AT&T spokesperson had initially vaguely confirmed that the carrier was blocking portions of the site because they were “following the practices of their policy department.” AT&T declined to provide a more specific explanation for why at the time, which triggered an immediate response from the global online community.
Many bloggers, forums and newsgroups were quick to decry the act as a form of censorship. Quickly, fear grew among tech bloggers that a massive 4chan counterattack was about to begin. 4chan has been known as a controversial website at times, but has largely been left alone until now.
“AT&T has just opened perhaps the most vindictive, messy can of worms it could have possibly found,” said TechCrunch. “Blocking any site is an extreme breach of user trust, but the decision to block 4chan in particular just seems stupid. Expect the web equivalent of rioting if this doesn’t change soon.”
AT&T had also recently discontinued providing USENET access to all customers, which was part of the initial fuel that fed a fire that could have quickly gotten out of hand. NewsDemon.com reported the outage back in June and continues to offer 25% Off all plans for former ATT subscribers.
AT&T said today that the temporary block of 4chan was due to an attack on one of its customers and not because of the popular site’s content.
In a statement, the ISP stated said that an unnamed business customer was the target of a denial-of-service attack on Friday. The DDOS attack originated from IP addresses connected to 4chan, and to prevent it from spreading to other customers, AT&T blocked those addresses for its Internet-service subscribers.
AT&T Inc. spokesman Michael Coe says the site was blocked to protect customers from a so-called “denial of service” attack, which floods targets with meaningless traffic. “This action was in no way related to the content at 4chane; our focus was on protecting our customers from malicious traffic,” AT&T said. It removed the block late Sunday.