Blogging Is a Vulnerable Method of Publication

Various news outlets picked up the story over the last week that “authorities” had shut down a free blogging site, Blogetery.com, that, according to its owner, was home to 73,000 blogs. (The New York Times blog Bits has a good account.) Two things make this story interesting to me.

First, it has a cross-border aspect: Blogetery is — or, rather, was — an outfit run by a Torontonian; and the server on which its blogs were hosted was run by BurstNet Technologies, which seems to be located in Pennsylvania. This might be a lesson for some website owners about the desirability of hosting within Canada, though I’m not sanguine about whether this would in fact protect them better.

Second, the blogging enterprises were terminated without legal due process. There is a dispute as to what exactly lay behind the termination by the hosting company. BurstNet released a statement explaining why it acted as it did:

On the evening of July 9, 2010, BurstNET® received a notice of a critical nature from law enforcement officials, and was asked to provide information regarding ownership of the server hosting Blogetry.com. It was revealed that a link to terrorist material, including bomb-making instructions and an al-Qaeda “hit list”, had been posted to the site. Upon review, BurstNET® determined that the posted material, in addition to potentially inciting dangerous activities, specifically violated the BurstNET® Acceptable Use Policy. This policy strictly prohibits the posting of “terrorist propaganda, racist material, or bomb/weapon instructions”. Due to this violation and the fact that the site had a history of previous abuse, BurstNET® elected to immediately disable the system.

Blogetery’s owner had received a number of take-down notices over the past months, respecting copyright material. He claims he acted on them expeditiously; the hosting company says this was one violation of their rules too many.

I suspect there were nothing like 73,000 blogs extinguished here; nevertheless, I’d be unhappy to have my publication evaporate overnight — to be “evicted,” as it were, because of the foolish acts of another “tenant in the building.” (And I do have to say that I would not want to be in a business in which I had to monitor the content of even a modest hundred of my “tenants’ ” activities unless I knew them fairly well.) But what comes through clearly here is that, to change metaphors, it’s important to own not only the “newspaper” but the printing presses and distribution systems as well.

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