World whines as AT&T muzzles 4chan, Google
Ma Bell and the /b/-tards
Fail and You The American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation had a hell of a week. In a spectacular display of the raw power liberated when organizational incompetence is mixed with the moral elasticity that can only be bred in an oaky cask of middle management, the company not only showed the world that it can do whatever it damn well pleases, but also that the spirit of American dissent and discourse has recently had a bit too much to drink and is dumping its gut into the toilet.
It started last weekend, when AT&T customers could no longer access 4chan, which is widely regarded as the gullet of the internet. There were theories about why this happened - be it the child pornography that sometimes pokes its eyes above water on the forum or the gruesome pictures that 4chan regulars post to cleanse the site of poseur /b/-tards. But the generally accepted explanation was that AT&T had taken objection to 4chan’s content and blocked the site. What followed was talk of a revolution, an all out attack against AT&T, which eventually fizzled out as AT&T stated that the site was blocked because of repeated denial of service attacks that had a negative impact on AT&T customers.
Initially, AT&T did nothing to help its situation, stating that the site was blocked "because of the policy department," which is a private industry way of saying "I don’t want to be held responsible for this, but it did happen." The 4chan community saw this as a confirmation that the site was blocked because of its content and continued to plan the counterattack.
Now, a casual reader needs to know a thing or two about the 4chan community to understand why what followed is more tragedy than comedy. The most newsworthy message board on 4chan is /b/, which new journalists discover about every four months when they want to scare the shit out of people who own computers. Some /b/ users, who go by the name Anonymous, know a thing or two about internet security, and they entertain themselves by breaking into people’s private e-mail accounts, MySpace accounts, and other such painfully inconsequential things. Because of this, /b/ makes a decent slow-news-day scare piece: an army of anonymous hackers are out there, and they’re reading your e-mail. Oh shit. This just got real.
When 4chan users found out about AT&T’s fuckup, the best idea they hatched was to file an AT&T's-CEO-is-dead on CNN iReport (CNN’s way of outsourcing news gathering to the internet, proving once and for all that fact checking in the internet age is easily replaced by a Digg-style voting system). CNN eventually got wise to this and deleted the story. About that time, AT&T issued a statement that they did not block 4chan because of content. Uprising quelled.
Now, I have seen the power of 4chan’s trust of technically savvy, above-average intelligence. /b/ acts best when it acts randomly. For example, a thread where one 4chan user in his thirties asked for advice about having sex with a 15 year old girl, and the other users, who know each other collectively as "Anons," tracked down this girl, her school, and contacted the school’s principal about this older man, a picture of whom hangs in the girl’s locker. With that in mind, 4chan’s flaccid response to AT&T shows that /b/ is more cruel than it is retaliatory.
The more serious half of the internet took its butthurt in a completely different direction, beating the tired drum of network neutrality, which is built on the pathologically liberal premise that free access to information over privately owned lines is a civil liberty. As causes go, network neutrality is really a spoonful of the dregs. You know, it used to be legal to carry a loaded handgun around openly in California. It was only in 1967 - when a group of Black Panthers, completely within the bounds of the law, marched on the state capitol armed - that the law changed.
I wonder, where is the armed protest to the filtering of BitTorrent packets? If the Weather Underground was still functional today, would it bomb AT&T’s office in response to blocking 4chan? How many bloggers would face the dogs and the fire hoses and the night sticks and the stomping boots to protect peer-to-peer file sharing?
AT&T’s second face-plant last week was violating the sanctity of the Jesus Phone. Apple pulled the plug on the Google Voice iPhone application, and many suspect that AT&T was behind it. Google Voice lets users send free text messages, a service on which AT&T has roughly a 7,000 percent mark up. This has driven some idealistic iPhone users to dump the service, including TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington, a long time Apple mouth piece, who is taking the Libertarian-when-it’s-convenient approach of voting with his dollars. AT&T is expected to suffer losses of up to several hundred dollars per month as a result.
Now we find out that the Federal Communications Commission - a government agency that exists solely to receive letters from Bible Beaters about the horror their children were exposed to when a hacky morning show DJ let the word "shit" slip out on the air - is getting involved. Bloggers love this because they think that the government actually cares about them. If anything substantive comes from this, I’ll be very surprised.
Again, I don’t see anybody lining up to take a can of high powered pepper spray to the face over an iPhone application. Whining, definitely. Blogging, you betcha. Writing a letter to your Congressman? Well, maybe, but do they take e-mail? Abandoning your beloved iPhone for two months, standing your moral ground against the evils of AT&T to other people at the party, ruining the fun atmosphere of whiskey and marijuana with some serious political talk, and eventually reactivating the device when you just can’t live without mobile Google Maps? Now that’s a course of action we can all get on board with.
The revolution will not be televised, but you can damn well believe it will be Twittered, and then promptly forgotten as it scrolls off the screen. ®
Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.
For a great article yet again.
Not a real Fail, but Fail and You. ;)
What the heck was that?
This story didn't even try to make sense. You start out with old news about the 4chan block then head off in some wonky direction. What was the point of that?
If you think there's a lack of "marching"
you are a) missing the point, and b) have a very selective memory.
In short, you have now become the apathetic "tsk, tsk, youth of today" muttering old codgers that you claim to have once rallied against. Probably the closest you've come to doing anything revoloutionary is buying a Citizen Smith box set.
Here's a few reminders of some recent (internet-assisted) protests that took to the street (for all the good they did, in the face of police tactics, media negligence, and governmental self-interest)...
The February 15, 2003 anti-war protest was a coordinated day of protests across the world against the imminent invasion of Iraq. Millions of people protested in approximately 800 cities around the world.
It's been said that between January 3 and April 12, 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war. Futhermore, These protests are said to be the biggest global peace protests before a war actually started. Europe saw the biggest mobilization of protesters, including a rally of 3 million people in Rome, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war rally.
March 2003: In Manchester, 300 (eye-witness Stop the War estimate) secondary school children, Further Education students and university students met at Albert Square at 12 noon. They marched to the BBC studios where they sat down peacefully in the road at around 1pm and blocked the traffic for over an hour. The numbers had grown to around 1000 by this time. The BBC did not come out to film them, but they were filmed by anti-war video activists and video clips are available on the web. The students then marched around the city centre and ended up back at Albert Square at about 4pm where they remained demonstrating in front of the Town Hall for some hours. The police, in at least two places, obstructed their path with the notorious "penning" tactics that are familiar to many demonstrators in Britain. This involves surrounding demonstrators on all sides with police, vehicles and horses for half an hour, an hour, or more and obstructing their movement in any direction. Meanwhile, police video cameras ostentatiously film the demonstrators. The alarming aspect of these tactics in this case was the fact that they appeared to be used in an arbitrary, routine way against entirely peaceful anti-war demonstrators. This "penning" happened in two places: Marlborough Street near the BBC studios for around an hour at approximately 2.30pm, just after the sit-down protest had ended, and later in John Dalton Street at around 3.30pm, for about an hour, as the demonstration attempted to enter Albert Square. The whole of this event (including the "penning") was filmed comprehensively by anti-war video activists and two hours of raw footage is available on the web for anyone who doubts what happened.
MAKE POVERTY HISTORY:
On Saturday 2nd July 2005 over 225,000 people took to the streets of Edinburgh to call on world leaders to act at the G8 summit. Many of the campaigners were dressed in white to form the world's largest human white band and speakers from around the world addressed the crowd to speak of the difference the G8 could make when they met later in the week at Gleneagles."
July 6 - Demonstrators walked overnight up to 20 miles to reach Gleneagles as the A8 had been closed. They were not convinced by the police who told them that they were not allowed to continue "for their own safety" as there had been "bomb threats" near Auchterarder. There had been an agreement with police that protesters would be allowed to walk past Gleneagles Hotel itself, within earshot of the G8, but police from all over the UK instead herded protesters onto a road bridge and violently suppressed the peaceful protest there.
G-20 LONDON SUMMIT:
The 2009 G-20 London summit protests occurred in the days around the G-20 summit on 2 April 2009, which was the focus of protests from a number of groups over various long-standing and topical issues. These ranged from disquiet over economic policy, anger at the banking system and bankers' remuneration and bonuses, the continued war on terror and concerns over climate change.
Although the majority of the protests and protesters were peaceful, the threat of violence and criminal damage were used by police as a reason to detain, or "kettle", protesters as part of Operation Glencoe. The police choice of "Operation Glencoe" as a codename was linked with the Glencoe Massacre.
In the days leading up to the summit, the Metropolitan police warned protest groups that the protests on April 1 would be "very violent" and that they were "up for it, and up to it" in the event of trouble. The police used the crowd-control tactic known as containment or the “kettle”, to hold 5,000 people inside a police cordon without food, drink or lavatory facilities. This combined with riot police pushing into crowds with shields and batons.
Ian Tomlinson died after being shoved and struck by a police officer within a police cordon of the G-20 Meltdown protest near the Bank of England. Initially the City of London Police denied that any incident with the police had occurred, and the death was attributed to natural causes. ... A second post-mortem has revealed that Tomlinson may have died from an abdominal haemorrhage. ...A police officer has been questioned under suspicion of manslaughter as a probe into the circumstances surrounding this death continues.
If you have a problem with Wikipedia references (references!, not sources!), organise a protest march.