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July 27, 2009

AT&T lifts Web site ban

Posted: 11:39 AM ET

Last night Internet Service Provider (ISP) AT&T began filtering portions of the controversial image board

AT&T broadband subscribers found they were unable to access the infamous /b/ and /r9k/ sections of the site. is a system of message boards primarily dedicated to anonymous discussion and image hosting. The site's popularity is largely due to minimal posting regulations that stimulate a freewheeling, Wild West atmosphere.

The news of AT&T's filtering sparked a firestorm of criticism from blogs and Internet forums by contributors who believed AT&T was censoring content. 4chan fans and detractors alike condemned what they believed to be an apparent violation of net neutrality. Sites such as Encyclopedia Dramatica began calling on users to respond to AT&T with a show of anonymous force:

Flood the callcenters and inboxes of AT&T. Make them confirm that (make sure its and not just is down. Then make the honest threat of service cancellation if this censorship isn't undone.

The objective of this little operation is to basically make sure that this precedent is not set. Make it absolutely abundantly clear that this [Internet censorship] is NOT acceptable to American consumers and this WILL NOT be allowed to happen, or else face financial and political suicide.

Anonymous posters also began to spread rumors claiming AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was found dead outside his home and that AT&T had stopped carrying the iPhone in attempt to affect AT&T's stock price.

By noon Monday, AT&T responded with the following statement:

Beginning Friday, an AT&T customer was impacted by a denial-of-service attack stemming from IP addresses connected to 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; 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.

It is unlikely that, or any popular web server, would engage in the illegal practice of denial-of-service attacks. Moot, owner and administrator of 4chan, offers another explanation:

For the past three weeks, 4chan has been under a constant DDoS attack. We were able to filter this specific type of attack in a fashion that was more or less transparent to the end user. Unfortunately, as an unintended consequence of the method used, some Internet users received errant traffic from one of our network switches. A handful happened to be AT&T customers.

In response, AT&T filtered all traffic to and from our IPs (which serve /b/ & /r9k/) for their entire network, instead of only the affected customers.

In the end, this wasn't a sinister act of censorship, but rather a bit of a mistake and a poorly executed, disproportionate response on AT&T's part.

Though the cries of censorship and claims AT&T violated net neutrality may have been misguided, AT&T should have informed its customers before blocking such a large and controversial Web site.

I doubt that is a mistake they will make again.

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Filed under: Digg • Internet • online news

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Amino   July 27th, 2009 1:40 pm ET

They arent blocking part of it, they are blocking almost ALL of the site. What gives them the right to censor the internet? if they are going to block 4chan they might as well block all racist, porn, hate filled, and any other website at&t is either not making money off of or is not in agreement with their company. This makes me want to change providers! Stop the hate At&t!

Ei8ht   July 27th, 2009 2:10 pm ET

They're must've been a reason, was theyre child porn posted on the site?

I can't imagine them blocking just for racism or hatred, given the many other sites.

Drew   July 27th, 2009 2:25 pm ET

The official reason:

"Beginning Friday, an AT&T customer was impacted by a denial-of-service attack stemming from IP addresses connected to To prevent this attack from disrupting service for the impacted AT&T customer, and to prevent the attack from spreading to impact to 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; 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."

anon   July 27th, 2009 2:26 pm ET

This should be much bigger news than it is. A threat to free speech anywhere is a threat to free speech everywhere. What is this, Iran?

Anonymous   July 27th, 2009 2:51 pm ET

rumor running around: someone(s) spoofed and started the DOS attack to make it look like it originated from 4chan. This is being looked into and will be dealt accordingly.

Aaron Curtis   July 27th, 2009 2:57 pm ET

To me this looks like ATT is WAY overstepping their bounds. I do not see how on earth they think it is lawful to just cut off a website due to reasons they will not disclose... Seems a bit suspicious to me.

Anon   July 27th, 2009 4:53 pm ET

The author of this story is such a /b/tard.

Anonymous   July 27th, 2009 5:31 pm ET

Content was never the issue. 4chan was being attacked by a rival website. When 4chan deflected the incoming spam, it flooded at&t's servers. Basically, /b/ was shut down by at&t because of the malicious intent of another website.

Anonymous   July 28th, 2009 11:01 am ET

Good job Anon. We still have it.

Asher   July 28th, 2009 4:49 pm ET

Too bad it's over. 4chan is the cancer that is setting the human race back 80 years.

Ambergris   July 29th, 2009 12:20 am ET

AT&T's attempt to censor the internet was particularly retarded, considering their target.

There are the same folks who so helpfully showed that Sarah Palin and company were using a free email service to send government-related emails.

Zim   July 29th, 2009 3:49 am ET

Looks like AT&T got trolled.

techguy   July 29th, 2009 8:32 am ET

People, read the rest of the article, please! This was not a censorship act. If they wanted to censor something why would they only go to this one website and only part of it? They were getting Denial of Service attacks from those IPs so naturally they blocked them until the traffic subsided. When you are managing the network it is the correct thing to do. Don't believe everything you read on the internet!

Roche   July 29th, 2009 1:27 pm ET

ROFL. What AT@T should do is send along the address and contact information to the NSA blackops division of everybody who frequently visits 4chan and have them erased from this earth, permanently.

4chan is a cesspool of weaklings who share the exact same mindset as criminals 'in the real world'. I'd love to see a member of our internet providers build a massive catalogue of 4chan identities to be used later by contractors in a massive search and destroy mission.

Will G.   July 29th, 2009 3:31 pm ET

They should have issued that little announcement BEFORE they blocked the site, now it just seems like them trying to cover their tracks. I have ATT&T and it's alright, but if this happens again, especially to a site I actually use, then I'm switching no joke.

Jason   July 29th, 2009 8:11 pm ET

all I hear is QQ from the people who are tapping their veins like junkies when their fix is cut off for a few hours. Oh no, 4chan is inaccessable. The world may as well be over.

Get over yourselves, drama queens. Have you seen the internet lately? Blocking 1 server for 1 site would be akin to telling people in a brothel "Just don't use the left half of room #42." If AT&T was on some quest to censor the internet, they'd pretty much need to block 90% of content out there.

Ashi   July 30th, 2009 9:30 am ET

'before blocking such a large and controversial Web site.#

It is not THAT large of a site. Normal people don't actually care.

Andy   August 6th, 2009 11:40 am ET

When you become the victim of a DDoS attack (and I have), you don't have time to go around, inform all your customers that an IP address or small range of IP addresses are going to be blocked, you get it done, then inform them that you blocked an attack so those customers aren't denied service because of the DDoS.

AT&T did what it was supposed to do, and in the order in which it should have done it. You stop the attack, then inform people.

If physical (rather than cyber) terrorists began attack in your city, would you want the government go say, we'll wait till we inform everyone of the attack before we begin to stop it, or would you want them to stop it, then tell you all about it?

Anonymous   August 7th, 2009 12:42 am ET

/r9k/ is stupid. /b/ on the other hand is the only worthwhile part. and controversial? LOOK AT THE FIRST AMENDMENT!!
@Ei8ht There is always CP, ignoring it doesn't make it go away. Just sage the thread and let it die. Mods always catch on.
@Roche This is illegal and it wouldn't matter. learn you proxies idiot

In any case it was a deflection of a DDoS attack, according to m00tykins, AT&T just overreacted like the bunch of money hoarding pansies they are

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