70,000 Blogetry blogs shut down; law enforcement agency responsible [Update]

In a mysterious series of events, the Wordpress blog platform Blogetry, used by approximately 70,000 bloggers around the world, shut down with little warning and no explanation, according to ReadWriteWeb. On a BurstNet discussion board, the owner of Blogetry details the events of the last few days. BurstNet, the web hosting company who owned the server that Blogetry resided on, sent the owner of Blogetry an email informing him that “due to the history of abuse and ongoing abuse on this 'bn.***********' server...We have opted to terminate this server, effective immediately.” After submitting a support request, and waiting over 24 hours for a response, BurstNet responded,

“Bn.xx*********** was terminated by request of law enforcement officials, due to material hosted on the server. We are limited as to the details we can provide to you, but note that this was a critical matter and the only available option to us was to immediately deactivate the server.”

This is very different than a regular Cease and Desist request typically issued by copyright holders who find stolen material on hosted blogs. Blogetry claims that they deal with those requests all the time, and that they deal with those issues usually within 24 hours. In this case, no warning was given, the law enforcement agency responsible for the takedown was not identified, and no reason for the takedown was forthcoming.

BurstNet credited Blogetry’s account for services not rendered and declined to comment on any further request for information. They are not giving access to Blogetry to recover important personal information, nor will they identify, after repeated attempts at communication, the nature of the law enforcement agency responsible. According to BurstNet,

“Please note that this was not a typical case, in which suspension and notification would be the norm. This was a critical matter brought to our attention by law enforcement officials. We had to immediately remove the server.”

Until the issue is resolved, 70,000 people have lost access to their content, and nobody knows why. 

Update:  According to Cnet, the FBI was behind the takedown of Blogotry, but only indirectly. According to CTO Joe Marr, BurstNet was informed by the FBI on July 9 that links to al-Qaeda materials were found on a blog hosted by Blogotry. The FBI did not, however, order a takedown of the site. That was a mistaken explanation given by an employee of BurstNet. Burstnet was the entity responsible for the takedown; the FBI's communications with sites web hosts like BurstNet usually only involve issuing warrants for information about users or content. However, the FBI does allow the web host to voluntarily shut down the sites involved in such investigation for suspicious or malicious content, including child pornography and terrorism. The BurstNet employee that was dealing with the FBI's request about Blogotry erred in assuming that the Bureau would want the server itself, not just the information requested for investigation. However, according to Marr, the mistake is inconsequential; Service was cut off because hosting bomb-making instructions and "hit lists" are very much against BurstNet's Terms of Service. 

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Hmmmm... on-line rumblings apparently prompted CNET to write about the affair yesterday ["Mystery shrouds closures of blog, forum platforms"] [http://news.cnet.com/8301-3100...1.html?tag=TOCmoreStories.0], but then this am's article had a markedly different slant on things ["Bomb-making tips..."] [http://news.cnet.com/8301-31001_3-20010923-261.html], as an exec overnight became an anonymous employee... Sunday: "Benjamin Arcus, vice president of Scranton, Pa.,-based Burst.net, the Web host for Blogetery, told CNET that executives there terminated service at the direction of a law enforcement agency" vs. Monday: "...a Burst.net employee erred in telling Blogetery's operator and members of the media that the FBI had ordered it to terminate Blogetery's service.".

According to the Monday, CNET article "Marr [chief technology officer for Burst.net] said that regardless of the mix-up, Blogetery's service was terminated because bomb-making tips and a "hit list" are an obvious and absolute violation of its terms of service." According to the news headline at [https://www.burst.net/news/blogetry.shtml]: "This policy strictly prohibits the posting of “terrorist propaganda, racist material, or bomb/weapon instructions"." FWIW the "BURSTNET™ SERVICE AGREEMENT - REVISED 1/10/2006" posted on the BurstNet site doesn't mention their quoted: "terrorist propaganda, racist material, or bomb/weapon instructions". In Monday's CNET article: "Marr emphasized that the FBI has never ordered Burst.net to stop service to any site it hosts without a court order and that the vast majority of Burst.net's communication with the federal government has involved agents serving warrants related to terrorist or child porn investigations." So BurstNet, one would imagine is familiar with this sort of thing... not as likely perhaps to panic in an OMG reaction, flipping the switch? And BurstNet it appears from that statement is not flying below the FBI's radar either.

Personally I'm not drawing conclusions, nor trying to persuade anyone by quoting & reassembling things out of context [the urls are right there], because I'm enough of a cynic to think I'll/we'll never know what happened -- anything out of BurstNet at this point is just PR, & the FBI would be terribly stupid to say a thing [IMHO]. IS it possible there was a bit of bungling? Certainly, & I'd guess lawyers would prefer that interpretation since negligence & intent go hand in hand I think. Personally I tend to believe 1st statements before people are told to shut up & companies/organizations try to *walk back* comments, but that's me. Did BurstNet, who by their own admission [according to CNET] had prior contact with the FBI, come under any *un-official* pressure? I would suspect it's possible but I have truly no idea one way or the other. This afternoon CNET's Monday article started to be picked up by a couple of the regular news sites. Hopefully if there is or has been enough of an uproar that, if there was any precedent setting to worry about, it's been pushed back & now considered unacceptable. so I [again personally] think it was worth it.

If any music bloggers who share out of print music and independent artists, rather than actually pirating material, please let me know so I can inform the readers of my blog. This happens all too often, and unfortunately the blogger in question loses years of perfectly legal posts. I try to keep my readers informed of all the latest news concerning these types of closures @ http://music-bloggers.blogspot.com

Most likely some investigation on a lot of users for blogging about stuff that they shouldn't have. They are probably still looking into a lot of things, and as to not give wind of it exactly so people will destroy what they can, they are keeping it hush... but on the other hand, since its all on the server, and it was taken down, no one can do anything anyway.... so they really should give the reason..... government intervention always sucks

Can we stop using this as a phantom political debate? There is no evidence of any kind of skipping of due process or abuse of power. Yes, you are entitled to hear charges brought against you and answer them in court. When charges are brought. You don't have an innate right to discover exactly what the details of an investigation are. Please try to stay on topic. The site was shut down and the host says it's a legal matter.

GreyWolf said,
Can we stop using this as a phantom political debate? There is no evidence of any kind of skipping of due process or abuse of power. Yes, you are entitled to hear charges brought against you and answer them in court. When charges are brought. You don't have an innate right to discover exactly what the details of an investigation are. Please try to stay on topic. The site was shut down and the host says it's a legal matter.

Not going to happen, because when something like this happens out of the states, it's not news, and when it does, everyone becomes a political analyst who loves to bash America.

likely because it had something about the government that they didn't like on some of the blogs talking bad about obama.
there was something else taken down/hacked this weekend but was put back up by youtube and google because there was such an uproar.

This is the same weekend that Alex Jone's "Obama Deception" on youtube was hacked into and deleted as well as his links on google when you search obama or obama deception was taken down after Google/Government caught wind that his links were the top of each search. Mind you there was that much of an uproar that they put the youtube video back up which they NEVER do no matter if it was hacked or deleted by user.

So some of the bloggers likely had blogs about the government that they didn't like so told them to take it down.

XTC2005 said,
Mind you there was that much of an uproar that they put the youtube video back up which they NEVER do no matter if it was hacked or deleted by user.


which is why' boxxy's videos were put back up after being hacked and deleted right?

Perfect illustration of why more gov & more regs/laws are so often such a terrible idea... regardless original intent, power can & will be abused by bad people doing bad things, &/or by mindless bureaucrats numb to caring about any damage, willfully ignorant of any regulation's intent.

Maybe someone will come up with a logical reason that shutting Blogetry down entirely was necessary, but I can't think of any situation where such a sledgehammer approach is/was warranted. That the hosting company, BurstNet, appears to be privately held likely means no real info will be forthcoming unless an org like the ACLU steps in to apply threats similar to those from the gov that prompted the owner(s) to take the path of least resistance.

It's a *very* chilling thought that free citizens of the US, Canada, EU etc might someday find their only outlet for free speech is through hosting in other countries without such all-encompassing regulations, or at least without the resources to enforce them.

Unfortunately given the current political climate, I would expect that this sort of action would justifiably be picked up by those leaning Libertarian as something horrendous, & thus any protests will be labeled by many as belonging to the far right, i.e. suitable to be ignored. At the same time, if/when any ties are made to alleged (C) infringement, those truly on the right will label those who protest such over-handed government action as anarchists, suitable to be ignored. If, or maybe even as, this evolves into more blatant censorship, which has long been sought by many in governments around the world, users who want their voices heard, their words read, will have no other choice but to pragmatically search out hosts off-shore or wherever the freedom to express themselves exists.

The truly saddest part, is that to all those who buy what the government PR departments sell, ignorance is very likely to remain bliss.

mikiem said,

Unfortunately given the current political climate, I would expect that this sort of action would justifiably be picked up by those leaning Libertarian as something horrendous, & thus any protests will be labeled by many as belonging to the far right, i.e. suitable to be ignored.

Hold on just a second. I'm the Chair (3rd term) of the Libertarian party in my county. Libertarians are centerists on the left/right spectrum. (Find out where you are using this quiz: http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz/) We're only radical about personal liberty.

I'm curious as to where you got the idea that an organization whose membership is centered around the pledge "I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals" is somehow "far right".

mikiem said,
*snipped*

i more or less agree, to some extent. i think it's the nature and content of laws and regulations that can be harmful or beneficial to citizens, not that fact that things are regulated or that there are laws that govern something.

for example there are laws that govern law enforcement, but in this case they don't seem to be being followed or enforced.

mikiem said,
Perfect illustration of why more gov & more regs/laws are so often such a terrible idea... regardless original intent, power can & will be abused by bad people doing bad things, &/or by mindless bureaucrats numb to caring about any damage, willfully ignorant of any regulation's intent.

.......

The truly saddest part, is that to all those who buy what the government PR departments sell, ignorance is very likely to remain bliss.

Watch this (not that I endorse this paranoia kinda of stuff, but there are some interesting similarities with what has happened lately - or after it was created):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YninFRIujfo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovrJhIKP4qc&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkug5awVsU0&NR=1

Neb Okla said,

Hold on just a second. I'm the Chair (3rd term) of the Libertarian party in my county. Libertarians are centerists on the left/right spectrum.

Oh -- I agree 100% -- more if possible :-)

In the US [at least vocal] Libertarians are currently, popularly considered far-right extremists by some [majority?] of the media, as well as by a majority of the left. IMHO this comes about because vocal Libertarians, at least here in the US, are for less big government intrusion, which is a rallying cry for the tea parties & becoming part of the Republican party platform. Turns out for example it's much easier to agree with the Prez & dislike Glen Beck, & since he's a self-proclaimed Libertarian, paint all Libertarians with the same brush, than it is to actually find out what Libertarians are all about.

When I give the Worlds Smallest Political Quiz (WSPQ) to hundreds of people at events across my state it's encouraging to me that if you look at the Libertarian/Authoritarian spectrum (insead of the meaningless left/right the media loves to harp on) we find that easily over 75% of people lean Libertarian on most issues. It's just a handfull that tug them in the authoritarian (statist) direction, and it's the statist interests that define people as left or right.

where does this take place? iran? china? can't be the USA because there are laws which protect citizens from things of this nature from happening. right? right?!

on what scale and what nature of things being blogged and posted be happening on this service/server to possibly warrant the shut down of the entire server and 70k blogs?
you don't shut down all of youtube because of DMCA violations or a few posters posting CP. you follow the law, admins remove the CP and ban the poster, DMCA takedown notices are followed appealed and such.

treemonster said,
where does this take place? iran? china? can't be the USA because there are laws which protect citizens from things of this nature from happening. right? right?!

How does the law protect us from someone shutting down their server on a hosted platform?

They own all the content on their server, so its not like they're messing with anything that's actually yours.

treemonster said,
where does this take place? iran? china? can't be the USA because there are laws which protect citizens from things of this nature from happening. right? right?!

There used to be. But the Democrats and Republicans have the same agenda - ever-expanding all-powerful government. This is why there's no interest in Washington in repealing The Patriot Act or even revising it in an attempt to make it Constitutional.

I am not afraid. I'd like my liberties back please. http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/77

treemonster said,
... you don't shut down all of youtube because of DMCA violations or a few posters posting CP...

That's because 1) Google has more than enough funds & lawyers to fight back, 2) because they would fight back, & 3) many (C) holders that otherwise would [& sometimes do] sue YouTube hope to someday make a ton of cash off it.

mikiem said,

That's because 1) Google has more than enough funds & lawyers to fight back, 2) because they would fight back, & 3) many (C) holders that otherwise would [& sometimes do] sue YouTube hope to someday make a ton of cash off it.


DMCA takedown procedure gets abused on youtube all the time at the expense of the users and it's the user's lawyers that have to fight back, not google's.

treemonster said,
where does this take place? iran? china? can't be the USA because there are laws which protect citizens from things of this nature from happening. right? right?!

on what scale and what nature of things being blogged and posted be happening on this service/server to possibly warrant the shut down of the entire server and 70k blogs?
you don't shut down all of youtube because of DMCA violations or a few posters posting CP. you follow the law, admins remove the CP and ban the poster, DMCA takedown notices are followed appealed and such.

....right, because this happens every minute of every day, to perfectly legal websites, all the time. Also, we routinely censor our search results and our political elections are all rigged.

/s

I tend to agree with many people here that something just doesn't sound right here. It honestly sounds to me more like the server had crashed with no backups, so the host is using the mythical "law enforcement agency" as a cover.

roadwarrior said,
I tend to agree with many people here that something just doesn't sound right here. It honestly sounds to me more like the server had crashed with no backups, so the host is using the mythical "law enforcement agency" as a cover.

I really don't think thats the case. They said they were "limited as to the details we can provide to you" so they probably don't want to go and say who requested the removal.

jingarelho said,
maybe it was aliens! they didn´t like some blog... "take it down or we will blow your planet"

LOL

I Love "Independance Day", & they certainly proved that sort of thing possible! ;?P

Northgrove said,
Sounds fishy to me... The "law enforcement agency" name is always public, so why aren't they telling?

Why would they have to?
It might have multiple choice -- the feds gave them a laundry list of agencies that might come down on them. It might have been cited as security related, & again several agencies could have taken action. It might have been a prosecutor's office, with an array of agencies that could bring about enforcement -- the local boys/girls might only have been brought in to effect seizure in the event of non-compliance.

At any rate, more facts behind the story will hopefully come out. Not knowing where to look, which agency etc makes it harder to look, keeps people like us guessing, which is as good a reason as any for the feds to allegedly place a gag on BurstNet providing info.

mikiem said,

Not knowing where to look, which agency etc makes it harder to look, keeps people like us guessing, which is as good a reason as any for the feds to allegedly place a gag on BurstNet providing info.

Actually, that's a terrible reason for shirking accounability to "the people". You have a rather warped world-view.

They owe him a proper explanation. If they have received a takedown notice why can't they reveal the issuer.

liju said,
They owe him a proper explanation. If they have received a takedown notice why can't they reveal the issuer.

According to the host, it wasn't a typical case.

"Please note that this was not a typical case, in which suspension and notification would be the norm. This was a critical matter brought to our attention by law enforcement officials. We had to immediately remove the server."

http://torrentfreak.com/u-s-au...st-with-73000-blogs-100716/

liju said,
They owe him a proper explanation. If they have received a takedown notice why can't they reveal the issuer.

My guess, ongoing investigation and not a simple takedown. The author doesn't seem to give even the slightest hint he's not taking the reason very seriously ("very critical matter"), so I think its a bit premature for some of these responses to be crying foul.

thornz0 said,

My guess, ongoing investigation and not a simple takedown. The author doesn't seem to give even the slightest hint he's not taking the reason very seriously ("very critical matter"), so I think its a bit premature for some of these responses to be crying foul.


since when does an ongoing investigation over ride due process? or the first amendment in such a sweeping fashion.

just because some people in teh state of delaware break the law doesn't mean you shut down every newspaper in teh state and enforce 24/7 curfew to prevent citizens from speaking to one another.

thornz0 said,

My guess, ongoing investigation and not a simple takedown. The author doesn't seem to give even the slightest hint he's not taking the reason very seriously ("very critical matter"), so I think its a bit premature for some of these responses to be crying foul.

Even if the story were to fall apart later, exercising distrust of those in power is a good thing actually -- it helps keep them honest , keeps us both vigilant & involved, & it's a decent enough way to pass a Monday. ;-)

That said, when someone high up in the gov is known for the statement: "Never waste a crisis", it becomes common sense to expect many a crisis to be fabricated. If that sounds too extreme, many of the fed's fairly recent powers only can be applied in more extreme situations, so the tail wags the dog so-to-speak.

treemonster said,

since when does an ongoing investigation over ride due process? or the first amendment in such a sweeping fashion.

just because some people in teh state of delaware break the law doesn't mean you shut down every newspaper in teh state and enforce 24/7 curfew to prevent citizens from speaking to one another.

You're making very serious assumptions with zero fact. If you read the update, it was not forced, it was mutual cooperation. This is why people need to learn not to fly off the handle without all the info.

There isn't much the host can do when the feds request the server to be disconnected. If they don't agree, the hosting company would end up in hot water.

Chris said,
There isn't much the host can do when the feds request the server to be disconnected. If they don't agree, the hosting company would end up in hot water.

I'm pretty sure that without an order from a judge, a government agency can't do a thing... the host was in the wrong here. If a court order had been provided, it would have most definitely been served to the client as well, not just the host.

vaximily said,

I'm pretty sure that without an order from a judge, a government agency can't do a thing... the host was in the wrong here. If a court order had been provided, it would have most definitely been served to the client as well, not just the host.


i agree. just because law enforcement tells you to take down your server doesn't mean you do it. you say"court order please?" and call your lawyer.

treemonster said,

i agree. just because law enforcement tells you to take down your server doesn't mean you do it. you say"court order please?" and call your lawyer.

Not if it was a sensitive enough matter you agreed with them.

For one example, if I ran a site hosting child porn and I never knew about it and law enforcement asked me to shut down so they could track it, I'd say go for it! I'd think a lot of people would.

There are more important things than money in the world, although I'm sure several people would disagree with me.

randomevent said,

For one example, if I ran a site hosting child porn and I never knew about it and law enforcement asked me to shut down so they could track it, I'd say go for it! I'd think a lot of people would.

Shut down so they could track it? You mean like turning off the water to find a leak? Your statement doesn't make sense and you seem to be making excuses for needless draconian abuses of authority.

Neb Okla said,

Shut down so they could track it? You mean like turning off the water to find a leak? Your statement doesn't make sense and you seem to be making excuses for needless draconian abuses of authority.


I have no evidence of an abuse of authority. I have a vague statement that people are taking out of context as they don't have proper details.

randomevent said,

I have no evidence of an abuse of authority. I have a vague statement that people are taking out of context as they don't have proper details.

Causing economic harm to people, then failing to give a reason - or even your name is "an abuse of authority". So you do have evidence of it - you're just choosing to ignore it.

randomevent said,

Not if it was a sensitive enough matter you agreed with them.

For one example, if I ran a site hosting child porn and I never knew about it and law enforcement asked me to shut down so they could track it, I'd say go for it! I'd think a lot of people would.

There are more important things than money in the world, although I'm sure several people would disagree with me.


child porn is the currently popular slogan to strip people of their rights, freedoms and privacy these days. CP is not so endemic that every citizens must be monitored or sweeping take down "orders" from non judicial organizations should be followed in secret.

randomevent said,

I have no evidence of an abuse of authority. I have a vague statement that people are taking out of context as they don't have proper details.

vague statements and secret trials were hallmarks of the inquisition and soviet russia.

vaximily said,

I'm pretty sure that without an order from a judge, a government agency can't do a thing... the host was in the wrong here. If a court order had been provided, it would have most definitely been served to the client as well, not just the host.

Assuming the host is at fault for not disputing the orders, not to be rude, but literally: So What? The same agency that told the host to pull the server isn't going to prosecute that host for breaking the rules by complying. Any legal action would have to be from one of the people wronged, which the host might have figured they'd deal with when that time came -- if it ever came. In the mean time BurstNet advertises it's a private company, so less info avail & less accountability than say a Google.

Neb Okla said,

Causing economic harm to people, then failing to give a reason - or even your name is "an abuse of authority". So you do have evidence of it - you're just choosing to ignore it.


I have evidence of an event that could be abuse, but until I know exactly what happened and why I will not fill in the blanks.

omnicoder said,
How can a law enforcement agency say that they aren't allowed to tell them who issued the order?
That just screams illegal to me...

The Patriot Act enacted by Bush and Extended by Obama authorizes law enforcement sweeping powers to do all kinds of secret things for secret reasons. This is one of the reasons The Patriot Act is unpatriotic and generally bad.

bdsams said,
oh thats pretty rough, imagine if you lost years of posts by this...

They should have posted with Windows Live Writer and kept local copies of their posts.

LukeEDay said,
If I was paying I would be suing ...

Would you really have grounds to sue though? Surely there must be something in the terms of service that says "If our server is taken offline due to a pending investigation by law enforcement, you may not take action against us"

I think it would be unfair if Blogetry got blamed for this