to The Seattle Pi, Canada has taken down two websites by
The Yes Men, an activist group that had posted fake press releases
posing as the Canadian government to try to push the country to
action on global warming. However, that was just the start of
the snowball -- Canada's takedown effort has killed over 4,500
innocent sites as well.
The debacle began when the "Yes
Men" pranksters announced that Canada would reduce greenhouse
gas emissions in 2020 40 percent from 1990 levels, and 80 percent by
the year 2050, reductions roughly in line with those pledged
by U.S. President Obama. The supposed "announcement"
came as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government was
instead secretly discussing plans to permit a 165 percent increase
in emissions from Alberta's huge oil sands project.
the fake statements, Mike Landreville from Environment Canada
(Canada's EPA equivalent) wrote German Internet Service Provider
(ISP) Serveloft asking them to take down the two sites involved --
and "ec-gc.ca" -- to
avoid the "deception" of the Canadian public.
wrote, "We trust you appreciate the importance of avoiding
confusion among the public concerning Canadian governmental affairs
and that you will assist us in preventing this hoax from spreading
Then he took things a step further, asking the
ISP to "make every effort to prevent any further attempts
concerning other environment-related domains (enviro, ec-gc, etc.)
originating from your servers."
The ISP bowed to the
nation's request, and in the process took down 4,500 Canadian
environment sites that were innocent bystanders. Mike Bonanno
of "Yes Men" blasted the takedown, stating, "We are
sorry to see that the Canadian government will not 'take certain
actions' that could help stave off catastrophic climate change and we
are sorry to see that they don't care so much for free speech."
hoax was quite artful. The "Yes Men" printed press
releases on what look like official Canadian government stationary
and even included a fake PR shot of someone who looked like Uganda's
climate representative standing in front of a replica UN podium,
praising Canada's "decision". Worldwide hundreds of
news sites ran with the story, completely fooled.
"Yes Men" consist of Jacque Servin, an author of
experimental fiction, and Igor Vamos, an associate professor of media
arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York. Mr. Servin
is infamous in the tech community for placing images of kissing men
inside SimCopter while he worked as an employee at Maxis. The
prank was not discovered until after the game's release.
Since, the pair have become even more famous for the war of
hoaxes they wage on those they feel are a destructive influence on
society. Most famously, after Dow Chemical did little to help
the victims of a 1984 chemical disaster that left 120,000 in India
needing long term care, the "Yes Men" sprang into action.
They released a "Dow" press release claiming that the
company was liquidating the involved subsidy to pay for the victims'
medical costs. The storm of negative PR against Dow's
subsequent denial of the statement didn't lead to that happening, but
it did punish Dow for its inaction, devaluing the company stock by
approximately $2B USD.
Ultimately, the pair has yet again
succeeded in the Canadian debacle. First they have brought
international media attention to Canada's global warming policy
(claiming to support emissions reductions while secretly brokering
emissions increases). Second, the bungled takedown attempt not
only draws more attention to the topic, but also to the perils of
censorship. Much as China is perpetually
criticized for its own displays of censorship, the Canadian
government will invariably be taking some heat over this gratuitous
display of internet censorship in coming weeks.
sites involved now appear to be up again, with a brief message
describing the takedown. Some of the sites in the ISP block
appear to be back to life as well, following the wave of complaints