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Blogetery Closure: A Violation of Our Blogging Rights?


Earlier this month, Blogetery went offline suddenly, leaving its 70,000+ users without access to their work. The news has gone from bad to worse. Not only were all of the blogs permanently shut done, but they aren’t coming back – and users aren’t even going to get access to collect their files. Whatever was posted on a Blogetery blog is gone. Forever.

Blogetery mentions on their website that they’ve been hosted by BurstNet for seven months, so presumably, some of their blogs were at least that old. I’m unaware if Blogetery is older and was hosted elsewhere first. (Maybe someone out there who had a Blogetery blog can chime in?) Even if it was “just” seven months…that could mean hundreds of blog posts for dedicated bloggers. Gone. In a second, just gone, without warning.

I think the real question here is whether or not the Blogetery closure was legal. When the sites went down on July 9, some speculated that it was a copyright violation issue. New reports seem to be saying that it had nothing to do with copyright – this was an issue of life and death, literally.

Everything about the Blogetery case seems pretty intense. This all happened because BurstNet terminated their partnership with Blogetery. According to reports, this was a “critical matter” and it has something to do with the FBI finding al-Qaeda information on the server, including hit lists, a direct message from Bin Laden, and instructions for making bombs. A blog-based magazine called Inspire recently launched through Blogetery, with the intent of recruiting members to al-Qaeda. One of their articles was allegedly called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”

Sadly, I’m sure that most of Blogetery’s users had nothing to do with the terrorist-related acts. It seems that Blogetery itself was in the dark that anything illegal was going on. Though I’m guessing that the information on the BurstNet servers aren’t yet deleted completely, it looks unlikely that anyone will receive access to their blogs’ databases. So, we might as well think of their blogs as deleted.

Legally, did BurstNet have the right to delete their blogs?

BurstNet received a Voluntary Emergency Disclosure of Information request from the FBI, which is part of a law that allows hosting companies to disclose client information in some cases, such as when it is threatening American security. BurstNet was also notified that they are legally allowed to discontinue service for a client in this situation, from what I understand of the reports, though the FBI did not compel them to do so – yet. Regardless, this kind of content is a breach of the BurstNew/Blogetery contact. So, legally, yes I think that BurstNet was within their rights to delete anything related to Blogetery. (Read their statement here.)

That doesn’t make it right. I’m all for stopping terrorists, but it seems like everyone had a pretty clear understanding about which blogs were dangerous. Wouldn’t it have been easy enough to contact Blogetery and warn that if this blog wasn’t removed immediately, service would be discontinued? Did hundreds of thousands of bloggers have to lose their work in the process? It’s important to note that the FBI never demanded that BurstNet take Blogetery off the air. They did that on their own.

It’s such a shame for bloggers who put work into building their sites on that network. It’s definitely a strong advantage to spending a few bucks a month to host your own blog, rather than working with a free service, but even then, blogs aren’t completely safe. The take-away message for us all is to back up your blog. Stay tuned – I’m currently writing up a post specifically about backing up your blog to help anyone who has never done it before.

I’d love to hear from any Blogetery bloggers out there! Obviously, I can’t read up much on the service, since their website is down right now, so your comments are invaluable.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She wonders if bomb-making directions differ if you’re using your dad’s kitchen instead of your mom’s.

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