Print 47 comment(s) - last by BailoutBenny.. on Jul 28 at 3:03 PM

AT&T knows how to warm the hearts of internet users

AT&T is known for often taking stands unpopular with its customers.  Even Apple has indicated that it is growing impatient with AT&T for, among other things, not allowing MMS messaging on the iPhone.  However, AT&T may have bitten off more than it realized when it decided to block portions of popular internet meeting place

The site which receives 150,000 to 200,000 messages a day certainly has plenty of offensive comments.  And it’s often used to launch everything from internet pranks to serious attacks.  The hacker group Anonymous is known to frequent the boards.

Apparently offended by the board, AT&T decided to block its internet users' access to it.  Starting at 10 a.m. PST on Sunday, the subdomain was blocked.  According to, an internet spokesperson confirmed that the company was "currently blocking portions of the internet site"

AT&T's spokeperson reportedly said that the block was "following the practices of their policy department."  The spokesperson reportedly claimed to have contacted site owner Christopher "Moot" Poole and received a list of demands.  Mr. Poole says he was never contacted and is confused at AT&T's claims.

Now the company has finally restored access to the site, but that hasn't stopped anti-AT&T groups such as "Project AT&T" and "4chan4ever" from popping up.  Among their first efforts was to start a Digg campaign falsely proclaiming that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had passed away.  More efforts are expected to launch today.

Many are speculating that there must be more to this story -- some sort of attack originating from that hasn't been reported yet.  Otherwise, it's hard to believe that even AT&T would be brazen enough to kick such a noisy hornets’ nest.

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By trajan on 7/27/2009 9:58:55 AM , Rating: 0
I'm going to go way out on a limb here and make the bold statement (NOTE: sarcasm) that the internet is not nearing its death, approaching its death, or anywhere remotely close to death.

First, ISPs don't need "authority" to block content. They're private companies providing private services. As long as they don't censor websites based on race or gender, they can censor whatever they want. Before you shout about freedoms, this IS freedom--we let people in America do what they want, even corporations

Second, its called a FREE MARKET. When companies do things people don't like, people stop giving them money. This is also a great part of America. D-bag companies like AT&T will pay for moves like this with angry and departing customers.

If there's anything we've learned in the news the last five years, its that you can't control or shape the internet. Its going to go where it wants to, and money spent making it go in "your" direction is wasted. On the other hand, companies that make services and products that cater to what people actually want are going to be generously rewarded.

By Uncle on 7/27/2009 12:24:14 PM , Rating: 5
Thats why some of these companies have chopped up America into little fiefdoms, if they screw you around ,who do you switch to.

By MatthiasF on 7/27/2009 4:09:23 PM , Rating: 3
Worse still are the smaller local governments accepting franchises from some of them, giving a provider a monopoly in an entire city or county for some extra tax revenue.

I'm pretty sure if there were referendums held asking their citizens if they want to be forced into a single cable or telephone provider, they'd most likely vote no.

By Triple Omega on 7/27/2009 12:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
First, ISPs don't need "authority" to block content. They're private companies providing private services. As long as they don't censor websites based on race or gender, they can censor whatever they want.

And exactly how does that not conflict with the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment of the American Constitution? Especially when there is no other provider to switch to this is total and utter prevention of the use of the right to freedom of speech. I don't see how this can be legal in any way.

By grandpope on 7/27/2009 12:58:17 PM , Rating: 4
It's not like AT&T is stopping 4chan from saying what they want, they just don't want to condone it. 4chan is more like a press organization, they provide information content for people to consume. If you are going to reference the First Amendment, at least refer to the freedom of the press portion.

AT&T is not the government (yet) so they aren't subject to the Bill of Rights anyway.

By trajan on 7/27/2009 1:03:10 PM , Rating: 4
If you write a lengthy tract about how, based on your years of research and reflection, you have concluded beyond a doubt that God wants everyone to bite their toenails each night before bed, then both freedom of speech and freedom of religion mean that the government cannot censor your tract. They can't ban stores from selling it, they can't prohibit you from printing it, they can't confiscate copies. But if you take your book to a publisher, and the publisher says "this is retarded and I'm not going to publish it" - your constitutional rights are not being violated. Free speech does not mean that it is either the obligation of the government or the private sector to broadcast anyone's speech. It just means the government can't interfere.

I'm not defending AT&T, they're obviously total d-bags. But it's obnoxious when people get all holy and righteous about the Constitution when they don't actually understand what its about. 98% of the Constitution's protections relate only to what government may or may not do with respect to its citizens. So, broadly speaking, if a person wants to get up on a soap box in a public park and mumble for hours about the imminent death of the internet, the government can't pass a law stopping them. A policeman can't arrest them just for their speech. But if a random passerby comes up and forcibly gags our soap box speaker, or beats him into silence, or shoots and kills him, it's not a violation of anyone's constitutional rights. (It would, however, be criminal - assault, battery, homicide - whatever.)

By Triple Omega on 7/27/2009 2:05:34 PM , Rating: 2
So basically your saying that the American government can't get in the way of your freedom of speech, but everyone else can? Everyone else can just try and prevent you from exerting your right to freedom of speech as long as their actions stay within the limits of the law? If that is so, then why is it forbidden for persons and companies to discriminate based on religion, ethnicity, etc. and not based on the use of freedom of speech? Allowing one message and blocking another based on it's content is also a form of discrimination. Why is this form of discrimination acceptable while others aren't?

Also, would blocking all christian websites be considered acceptable censorship or discrimination? What about republican websites? Where is the line drawn and why there? Why is one form of freedom of speech protected by anti-discrimination and another not?

By someguy123 on 7/27/2009 5:53:50 PM , Rating: 2
no you idiot, he's saying that, although you have the right to say what you want (with the exception of public threats and hate crimes) you are NOT entitled to have your thoughts published/broadcast by private organizations.

if at&t, a private organization, decided "hey, we're not going to spend our bandwidth allowing users to connect to this site", that is perfectly legal and within their rights to do so, as long as it done for illegal reasons (racism, corporate payouts etc).

By someguy123 on 7/27/2009 5:54:46 PM , Rating: 2
whoops, NOT done for illegal reasons. edit button request #29232423

By trajan on 7/27/2009 6:16:16 PM , Rating: 3
Exactly what first commentator above said.

Also note that in my original post, I mentioned that AT&T cannot discriminate on the basis of race, gender or religion. I thought about restating that in my follow up but decided I needed to keep this at the "How YOUR Country Works 101" level, given the remedial nature of a small number of readers.*

But it's a very good point--when I said that ~90% of the Constitution applies only to what the government can do, that is correct. The one major exception to this took place after the Civil War, when we dramatically altered the shape of our government. Post 14th Amendment (and some of the others), it has been deemed unconstitutional for private parties to discriminate in certain ways against people based on race. Later amendments and court cases expanded that to include sex, religion and (not 100% clear yet) disability.

Again, I hope you can see the irony here -- you are getting upset about someone not following the Constitution when you, in fact, have a deplorable understanding of how this document works. If it's so important to you, and it should be, you should take some time to figure it out. Interestingly, prior to the Civil War, the Constitution did not even apply to state government. That's right - your state could censor you all it wanted, it could take away your guns, it could quarter troops in your house, the whole lot. Post Civil War that stopped being the case, not because of anything explicit in amendments, but because "activist judges" on the Supreme Court decided so. Thank god.

I'm not sure what rhetorical point you're getting at with your last paragraph so I'll just answer it at face value. It's questionable whether or not AT&T could block sites based solely on religion (e.g. Christian sites) because that would fall into the narrow 14th Amendment harbor described above. Political websites would be a grey area, I'd have to check case law--it's definitely possible that its legal. The line drawing is done by federal courts and is supposed to be based largely off of prior cases. The standard has changed over the 150 years or so that this line of cases started, but the idea is that the Court asks whether or not the private party is discriminating against a "protected group" (usually tied to an immutable or strongly fundamental characteristic such as sex, race, religion). It also asks what the actual action is. Thus if you want to be a bigot and not invite Zorrastrians into your home, thats discrimination against a protected group, but also since you are acting as a private figure you're allowed to be a d-bag. If, however, you're a hotel owner offering services to the public, and you refuse to let Zorrastrians stay with you, you're in trouble.

4Chan is not a protected group, so even though AT&T is acting in the public sphere, it's allowed to discriminate if it wants to. It could pick and choose individual blogs to block if it feels like it. If it were a GOVERNMENT, things would be different because then and ONLY then, free speech would apply.

And to answer your very last question, there are not multiple "freedoms of speech". There is only one freedom of speech and what it means is this: " Your government cannot restrict your speech because of its content . Some exceptions apply."

*Assuming you're a U.S. citizen

By mattclary on 7/27/2009 12:39:14 PM , Rating: 4
While I feel I "should" agree with you, the reality is a little different. At best, most people have little choice in who they use for an ISP. There is no free market when it comes to this.

What would you do if your cell carrier decided you couldn't call people in, say, California?

By trajan on 7/27/2009 1:13:57 PM , Rating: 4
Option I: abandon the free market and write to your elected politicans. Tell them you want a law passed to prohibit ISPs from censoring content. Good luck.

Option II: trust the free market and consider that the more d-baggery that happens by corporation, the more incentive there will be for competitors to step forward and offer better service.

I agree that the ISP market isn't the most competetive industry in America but there ARE options. If my cell carrier decided I couldn't call California, I'd switch carriers. In Mass., where I live, I'd be able to do it without paying termination fees, under our consumer protection laws. (Signing me up for a plan with no limitation and then changing the rules would pretty clearly be a unfair or deceptive practice under our 93B statute). Your laws may vary.

In some of the comments here I am simply annoyed by a sense of entitlement that appears to underly them. Nobody has the god given right to make AT&T or anyone else broadcast their message, no matter how (un)important it may be. As a born and raised left wing liberal I'm surprised I'm the one making these points, but frankly you can't champion freedom for individuals and then deny it to corporations.

AT&T and other corps will lose money doing stupid things like this, a small number of angry customers can wreck PR havoc on them. As someone else observed, they kicked a hornets nest, they got stung, they quickly reversed course. Life goes on.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke
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