On Friday, July 9th 2010 Blogetery.com went dark and over 73,000 user generated blogs disappeared without warning, without notice...and without any explanation whatsoever.
Blogetery.com hosted thousands of WordPress based blogs that suddenly disappeared when their host, BurstNet abruptly pulled the plug in what has become one of the current mysteries of the net. So far it appears that the hosting company is not only refusing to divulge information in regards to the reason for yanking Blogetery's account but there may actually be some sort of unidentified government or law enforcement agency tying their hands in the matter. Another incident that has many finding more questions than answers, is the sudden disappearance of IPBFree.com within just a few days after Blogetery went dark. Whether there is any connection to these two incidents or not is still unknown. IPBFree.com supplied hosting for free message board communities and, like Blogetery, was of course rich in user created content. At this point, there has not been any other connection made between the two services other than their mysterious disappearance.
Currently, the official post on the place holder site for Blogetery simply states: "After being BurstNet customer for 7 months our server was terminated without any notification or explanation. We're trying to resolve the situation." Further details provided in a series of forum posts that the holding page links to, shows that apparently the only official word from BurstNet is that Blogetery's server was pulled in response to law enforcement officials but have offered no further information to answer the questions why the server was pulled or even who was behind it. There seems to be even less information regarding IPBfree.com's sudden exit.
Speculation is running high about everything from copyright infringement to some sort of government take over and political censorship, but the truth is still unknown. Understandably, tensions are running high among many internet providers and users after the current administration, particularly Vice President Joe Biden, has made a point of targeting anyone involved in copyright violations, comparing piracy to "smash and grab" theft . Biden, along with U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, issued stern warnings and vowed to go after the individuals and sites involved in knock-off products and copyright infringements of various kinds and while it is tempting to see these sudden actions as being related to these endeavors, the only information that has been made available seems to be firmly stating that the sites did not go dark due to any copyright issues. CBS News is reportin g that officials from both the U.S.'s Intellectual Property Enforcement department and representatives for major movie and music industries have all indicated that there seems to be no issue of copyright infringement that they are aware of.
So, if copyright violations are not to blame, what is the explanation? Perhaps more importantly, who is responsible for removing thousands of blogs, forums, and tons of user generated content? Had there been users violating federal laws, why would those individual accounts not have been targeted by authorities working with the owners of the sites to shut down the offending accounts instead of yanking the entire server? Then there is the question of due process, since there seems to be no apparent paper trail it is unclear if there are any legal rights that have been violated.
Interestingly enough, these sites went dark around the same time that popular micro-blogging sites in China were hit with a wave of suspicious service outages that some think were inspired by the Chinese government. These sites were also rich in user generated content but, other than timing, there may or may not be any other connections between these series of events so this could all be a coincidence, if you believe in coincidences.
At this point more questions are piling up and few answers are being made available, in fact, it is not even clear who we should be asking and the situation has many user generated content and service providers wondering who may be next and anti-censorship forces are crying foul. What this will mean for the future of the internet and for free service providers is yet unseen but this is one case that many will certainly be watching very carefully.