Verizon: Censorship or Safety? The mess

by Matt Klassen on February 11, 2010

In a surprising move this past week, Verizon apparently took a page out of the Chinese book of Internet censorship, blocking one of webs more notorious message boards, 4chan. For those that don’t know, 4chan is a simple image-based bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images, known particularly for its no-holds barred anonymous forums. In a report posted on, 4chan’s founder, Christopher Poole, accused Verizon of “explicitly blocking” user access to the 4chan site, a move considered by many to be excessively heavy-handed, if not overtly illegal.

Yesterday, Verizon Wireless responded to the allegations, saying this site blockage occurred as a response to a Distributed Denial of Service attack that stemmed from the site While 4chan agrees that this is what initiated the blockage, they vehemently disagree with the actions Verizon took in response to the issue. Instead of contacting the site NOC(Network Operation Center) to determine the source of the issue, Verizon took a heavy handed shoot-first-contact-admins-later approach, similar to the one AT&T used in recent months, effectively blocking the site from all Verizon traffic without notifying the site itself.

 While Verizon maintains that this blockage was necessary to protect their network from incoming viruses generated by this attack, 4chan admins stated in a recent post, “The miniscule amount of traffic coming from our server posed absolutely no threat to their customers or the integrity of their network.” The correct course of action would be to contact the site itself and work with 4chan to mitigate the negative effects of this attack.

 Further, it is reported that other companies such as Comcast, after implementing a brief interruption in site access for its users, quickly lifted the ban and contacted 4chan regarding the attack. Verizon, it seems, has the dubious record for the longest site blockade of 4chan, without contacting the site itself.

 What does this mean for the world of free speech? Probably not much. Whether or not Verizon, or AT&T before them, acted illegally in blocking the site after such a minor attack remains to be seen, but what is clear is that there exists a disgraceful lack of communication between telecom companies and site administrators. According to 4chan, the former continue to intentionally ignore the negative effects on service, public perception, and customer satisfaction that result from the failure to work closely with site owners to resolve minor issues such as this.

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