Was 4chan block about censorship, security or net neutrality?

Summary:For cloud computing to succeed we need national and international policies that define when companies can act, and how they can act, so those who are acted upon have legal recourse.

AT&T insists its temporary block of 4chan was about security, that the site was hosting a Dedicated Denial of Service (DDoS) attack aimed at one of its customers.

Others aren't so sure.

The Inquisitor calls it censorship. Writers at The Daily Kos call it an attack on net neutrality and predict it will backfire before the FCC.

Tristan Louis combines it with the Kindle "1984" erasure and Apple's control of iPhone apps, writing "a dark cloud" puts all technology trends into question.

It's clear this is not a one-off. It is part of a growing trend, corporate attempts to enforce law remotely against property people consider their own.

This is especially relevant as we move into an era of cloud computing, where resources we consider our property are, in fact, dependent upon computing environments owned by others.

It doesn't matter in this case whether the software in question is open source or closed source. What matters is the remote control of that software exercised by a service vendor, and the legitimacy of that control.

Can people trust clouds, or devices dependent upon clouds, if cloud owners act as judge, jury and executioner, zapping what we consider our own? Wouldn't a book be more ours, or a simpler, voice-only phone? Should we perhaps only use modems to reach the Internet, and shut the connection when we're not behind the keyboard?

In the case of 4chan, AT&T's story is fishy. DDoS attacks come from botnets, not specific sites. While sites may control botnets, and users may launch botnet attacks from sites, those are almost always throwaway URLs today, not popular, well-known sites like 4chan.

Moreover if 4chan were hosting malware then all security professionals should have been made aware of it, and the block should have been universal, backed perhaps by a government warrant.

Corporations are individuals under U.S. law, and subject to legal authority, but they are not law itself. They are not law enforcement agencies. They should not act as such without clear legal authority.

For cloud computing to succeed we need national and international policies that define when companies can act, and how they can act, so those who are acted upon have legal recourse.

Private law enforcement without legal recourse just won't cut it.  The opposite of government is not freedom, but anarchy.

Topics: Government : US, Browser, Government, Security

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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