Pastebin 'censorship' angers Anonymous

Pastebin has raised the hackles of Anonymous after the site's owner, Jeroen Vader, revealed he plans to hire additional staff to scour the site and remove sensitive information.

Pastebin has raised the hackles of Anonymous after the site's owner, Jeroen Vader, revealed to the BBC in an interview that he plans to hire additional staff to scour the site and remove sensitive information.

(Clipboard and Shovel image by Orin Zebest, CC BY 2.0)

The Pastebin site was originally created to provide developers with an easy way to paste code online and share it with others; however, it has since become a dumping ground for hacktivist groups like Anonymous, that, in the past, have uploaded username and password lists, personal information about individuals, and even credit card numbers.

In an interview with the BBC, Vader revealed that despite the site's policy of banning the posting of this sensitive material, the difficulty of determining what content was not legitimate made it likely that banned content was still appearing on the site. He said that he was looking to hire some extra hands to go through Pastebin content because the current method of relying on users to report bad content was not working as effectively as he had have hoped.

This action has been seen by many members of Anonymous as a stab in the back and other bystanders have vowed not to use the site if its content becomes "censored".

@YourAnonNews tweeted "Srsly Pastebin, f**k you ... All aboard the Censor Ship!", while @AnonOpsSweden recommended posting pastes to multiple pasting sites.

Vader, however, doesn't seem to have a problem with Anonymous, per se, but more with their usage of the site for the posting of sensitive information, which is against Pastebin's terms of use. In an earlier interview with ZDNet Australia, Vader said that it was proud that Anonymous had used Pastebin in the past.

"They are well respected and always tell the world the things they believe in and what their plans are. We are happy to see that Anonymous uses Pastebin for their press releases," Vader told ZDNet Australia.

Although Pastebin has been the target of distributed denial-of-service attacks recently, Vader has never pointed the finger at Anonymous for these attacks, instead saying he believed that unassociated Russian hackers were behind them.

There are several alternatives to Pastebin that hacktivists like Anonymous can use, but losing users doesn't appear to be of significant concern for Vader. When he spoke to ZDNet Australia at the end of February this year, he said that the site was currently being visited by 16 million unique users each month. In just over a month, that number appears to have rocketed to 17 million, according to the figure Vader gave BBC (despite the fact that Turkey and Pakistan began to block access to Pastebin during the period). Only yesterday the site celebrated its 200,000th registered member, a significant number considering registration isn't at all required to use the site.

In the meantime, Pastebin continues to battle against the constant attacks that hit the site.

"Pastebin receives some sort of attack almost every day, and sometimes multiple times per day. There are a lot of ways to try and get a website down, and I think we've seen them all by now. The short attacks are not too bad, it's mainly the ones that go on for hours or days that are the hardest to fight off," Vader said.

"We do not think these attacks will stop just overnight. I hope we are wrong, of course, because it is a major headache and prevents us from doing more important things such as developing the site further and working on other daily tasks. During these big attacks everything kind of grinds to a halt."

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