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Tony Mobily [opinions]

Free Software Magazine caught in the 3fn shutdown crossfire

fsmsh.com/3153

This article is necessarily going to be short: I am busy restoring our server from a backup from the 2nd of June. Why? Because 3FN was shut down by the FTC; and yes, 3fn is the hosting company we used and were sponsored by.

We are now hosting the magazine with the angels at OpenHosting, which in this case were a life saver.

They provided a server pretty much instantaneously, and made sure that it would be big enough for both Free Software Magazine and FSDaily. The downtime was so long because we expected things to get back to normal soon. We knew that authorities were involved; at the same time, we didn't expect the FTC to just /shut down/ a whole internet provider with thousands of servers... but we were wrong.

I have to be honest: I am torn. Free Software Magazine had a /three day downtime/, which for a web site is nothing short of a disaster. This also had a huge cost for us on many levels: are our advertisers going to trust us now? Is the traffic going to be restored?

3FN was apparently helping setting up botnets and the hosting of illegal material, including child pornography. Even worse, one of the tech supports at 3FN was allegedly helping one of the customers set up a botnet on one of the servers. You can find out more about it in the link above.

Now, that's what 3FN has been charged for. And here lies the problem. They have been accused of very serious crimes, and as a result... they were sent bankrupt. There is no way a hosting company could survive a downtime of twelve days (that's how long the temporary injunction is).

3FN could be guilty or innocent. Or maybe a mixture of the two. In any case, they were executed without a court case, without a jury, without a way to defend themselves. This is the part that disturbs me.

There /was/ a better way to handle all this. They could have shut down 3FN for 24 hours, and made sure that everybody knew why. They could have taken an image of the hard drives they knew were incriminated, and let them reconnect the network after that. That would have had several consequences:

  • Legitimate customers such as Free Software Magazine would have found out that maybe it could be a good idea to change ISP

  • Non-legitimate customers would have left 3FN in fear of such an event happening again

  • 3FN would have realised the seriousness of the consequences of having illegal activities on their servers

Instead, they took 3FN and put it out of business. And took down countless innocent web sites, some of which -- I am sure -- didn't even have a backup.

Many innocent sites were caught in the crossfire. Free Software Magazine and FSDaily were two of them.

I am speechless.

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