Timeline of an Epic #FAIL: The WikiLeaks Takedown Fiasco

Things have been moving so fast over the last five days I haven't had a chance to come up for air. This entire ordeal has completely taken over my life, just when I think things are calming down, some gigantic media outlet comes out with another story about Wikileaks that includes the erroneous "fact" that "easyDNS pulled the DNS for WikiLeaks", and it sets off another wave of tweets, retweets, blog postings and dissemination via wire services and aggregators.

Despite which side of the fence one is on regarding WikiLeaks and their activities, what happened in the face of a seemingly innocuous "typo" ended up carrying serious consequences. It took the phrase "don't believe everything you read in the paper" to a whole new level. It made it clear that people online act in mobs, they get worked up over stuff, they take action – call for boycotts, wax philosophical, get active, seek you out and give you a blast of rage – and they do it all unquestioningly, without hesitating, based on the contents of a 140 character "tweet".

If this didn't have enough implications, professional "journalists" then cull this stream-of-consciousness and use it to cobble together their next big news scoop. Rinse-lather-repeat.

Because so much has happened and we've gone back and edited and re-edited our previous posts as new information came to light, we give you the Definitive Timeline of the Wikileaks Takedown Fiasco….

7:00 AM EST: Friday December 3rd:

I first become aware something is up on the way to the breakfast table I sneak a quick look at email, see comments pending to be approved for the easyDNS blog under our oddly prescient First They Came For The File Share Domains post from a few days earlier (which mentions wikileaks website and the pending comment quoted a line from it:

"it meant the end for everything ranging from WikiLeaks to LewRockell.com (I didn't mind, because I didn't follow those websites)."

And Continued:

Yup. Thanks for letting us all know how unreliable and cowardly you are, Mark!

 

I think "that must be sarcasm", and approve the comment. Notice a bunch of unread alerts in my Google reader for the RSS feed via twitter on "easydns":

@easydns WRT your treatment of WikiLeaks, thanks for letting us all know how unreliable your pathetic company is.

 

Huh?

Google "easydns wikileaks" and find several websites and blogs have already run with the "EasyDNS.net has cut off DNS service to Wikileaks" meme. It looks like Wikileaks' real DNS Provider, EVERYdns.net, a free DNS service provider recently acquired by Dynect.com, dropped service to Wikileaks in the face of a DOS attack.

Quickly post to the blog: WikiLeaks….NOT an easyDNS domain…everyDNS: NOT easyDNS And head out to take the kid to school.

Dec 3 10:00am:

By the time I get to the office, the guys are already trying to get hold of somebody at Gawker, who ran the story on Valleywag Wikileaks' Domain Gets 'Killed' , saying "easyDNS.net" in every spot that now says "EveryDNS". Gawker fixes their story without comment by 10:56am, email back our staffer:

"We will fix. You do not get a tweet or correction. Now stop emailing and calling us, please."

 

Dec 3 11:36am:

We publish Wikileaks "takedown" fiasco underscores pathetic state of internet "journalism and start distributing this link via twitter to every person who references easydns as the former DNS host for wikileaks.org

Dec 3 1:17 pm:

Word is starting to get out, we think we turned a corner. In response to the question via Twitter "Would we then provide DNS hosting to wikileaks, should they ask us?", we post Ok, so would we take on Wikileaks DNS at this point? outlining the conditions under which we would feel safe to take on wikileaks.

Dec 3 5pm:

At some point we realize the the Financial Times have also published the following and I email the writer about a correction.

WikiLeaks has faced several denial-of-service attacks, both at the companies it has used to host its content and at EasyDNS, a US company it relied on to connect web visitors to WikiLeaks.org to the numeric internet protocol address. EasyDNS cited those attacks’ effects on its other customers for dropping WikiLeaks as a customer.

Dec 3 7pm:

The Financial Times writer emails a short "sorry about that" email but no correction appears on the website other than all instances of "easyDNS" are changed to "everyDNS".

By now, the story that we were incorrectly blamed for the wikileaks takedown is gaining steam on Reddit Wikileaks was hosted by EVERYdns, not EasyDNS. The Internet attacks the wrong people. Again – and the people there are very angry with Gawker about their handling of the situation.

People on Reddit start emailing and calling Gawker offices. Remy Stern's replies to Reddit readers are short on diplomacy:

"Don't email us again — you're clearly an idiot."

 

and the fateful

"If you and your moronic colleagues continue to email us, we'll be happy to write about your company's harassment tactics and explain to readers why they should avoid doing business with you at all costs."

 

Dec 4 Midnight:

The above response kicks off another Reddit thread: Gawker threaten bad press towards EasyDNS due to Gawker's own f*up with regards to WikiLeaks

Dec 4 1:00am:

I can't sleep. While it seems to me we have gotten ahead of the bad information, I am fearful of a hatchet job from Gawker if self-described "Internet Hate Machine" keeps on them.  I go back online and post Thank you to all, I would like this to stop now.

In it I say

The word has gotten out, pretty well everybody who can fog a mirror now knows that the original reference to us was a mistake.

As far as I am concerned this is now over, there is nothing more to see here and everybody can just move on.

 

Tomorrow, somebody else will do something that gets everybody all fired up. I hope it's not us, and I hope nobody mistakenly thinks it's us.

Dec 4, 9:30 am:

I wake up, come downstairs, see my twitter search on easyDNS has 75 unread tweets, the common theme is @Amazon, @Easydns, @Paypal are shutting down Wikileaks. I haven't figured out why the explosion in activity yet.

Get ready to take the kid to gymnastics class. Final one of the session, ribbon ceremony at the end :)

Dec 4, 11:30am:

I get a Google web alert on my phone

The Lede: PayPal Suspends WikiLeaks Account

New York Times

The arm of the Internet giant Amazon that provides Web services and the domain name company EasyDNS.Net both severed their ties to WikiLeaks during the …

I feel the blood draining from my face.

Driving to grandmas after gym, calling a friend asking him to post a comment to the New York Times and try to email somebody there.

Dec 4, 1pm:

Arrive at my mom's place, laptop in hand, setup shop. Another wave of indignant twits are tweeting for our heads. A lot of them. (A "twitchunt" as a good friend calls it) Start replying to every single one with the URL of our rebuttal post on the blog.

Dec 4, 3:20pm:

New York Times fixes story, adds an * to the end of "EveryDNS.net" and appends a note:

* An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a company named EasyDNS.net had severed its relationship with WikiLeaks. In fact, as our colleague Ashlee Vance reported, it was another company, EveryDNS.net — one of many companies that manage the underlying domain name system of the Internet — that stopped providing its service to the whistle-blowers’ Web site on Thursday.

Dec 5, 7:00am:

I get an email from somebody who asks if we're prepared to take on DNS for wikileaks? This is what's known as a "hinge moment": It's time to Put Up or Shut Up.

We trade emails back and forth over the next few hours reviewing the conditions under which we would take this on and setting up wikileaks.org and wikileaks.ch on the system.

Dec 5, 5:00pm:

easyDNS nameservers are added to the wikileaks.ch domain delegation. We post originally post easyDNS added to Wikileaks DNS delegation and then clarify that to wikileaks.ch when we are made aware that the .org domain seems to be in limbo.

Dec 6, 1:00pm:

We setup an easyDNS facebook page and spend most of the day chasing down non-english tweets that seem to be lumping us in with Paypal, Amazon, etc., posting comments to blogs, trying to clean up what seems like the last of this mess.

Dec 6, 2:23pm:

Associated Press runs a story incorrectly describing easyDNS as "A Toronto web hosting company"  and adds "Mark Jeftovic of easyDNS said his firm might eventually host Wikileaks.org."

At no time have I been contacted by Associated Press.

Dec 6, 3:00pm:

First complaint from a customer because we're now doing DNS for Wikileaks. It was bound to happen. Long time customer who refers a lot of business to us and he doesn't like this at all.

Start getting a few emails from other customers who are concerned about this. For the most part they understand the position we are in, but wonder: Are we putting their domains at risk by doing this?

Dec 6, 7:00pm:

wikileaks.nl adds easyDNS to their nameserver delegation.

Dec 6: 10:00pm:

I post Concerns around Wikileaks DNS for easyDNS Members and now I'm worried about mixing my personal views on Wikileaks itself into this. So I post On the Implications of providing DNS for Wikileaks on my personal blog.

Dec 7: 7:00am:

Do my morning batch of "#easydns did NOT take down #wikileaks" tweets in response to everybody tweeting "easyDNS took down wikileaks".

Dec 7: noon:

Wrapping up an offsite meeting, glance at my iphone and see a massive explosion in "easyDNS took down wikileaks" activity, again. The UK's Guardian newspaper has run Wikileaks under attack: The "definitive" timeline

Friday 3 December

 

• TECH: Wikileaks.org ceases to work for web users after easyDNS.com, which had provided a free routing service translating the human-readable address into a machine-readable form, ends support.

 

So that's where the latest wave of hate is coming from. Disappointed to see among the newest wave of tweets, a post from a Huffington Post reporter:

The #domain name company EasyDNS.net has followed @amazon and @paypal in severing ties with @Wikileaks.

 

And even more so to to see that her response to my ""please get it right #easydns did NOT take down @wikileaks!!" is

Never said it did!!

 

It further becomes apparent from looking at Google cache that at some point the wrong info traversed Huffington Post although there are no further traces of easyDNS on their website


(The December 1st in the screen grab above seems to be the top of a multi-day "live blogging" coverage of the Wikileaks drama. Any references to easyDNS now seem to have been purged without comment).

Dec 7: 3pm:

The Guardian fixes the story and appends the following:

Note: an earlier version of this article wrongly referred to easyDNS.com as having provided DNS routing for Wikileaks. This was wrong, and the company was not involved.

 

Dec 7: 5:56pm:

The Guardian sends out this tweet:

For clarification: everyDNS, *not* easyDNS, stopped DNS for #wikileaks. EasyDNS is providing DNS for Wikileaks.ch. Apologies for our error.

 

Holy Cow they have 1.6M followers!

At this point I am cautiously optimistic that this is pretty well over. I remember a .sig file from a customer back in the days when I worked at Inforamp.net, one of Toronto's first dial-up ISPs. I always chunkled every time I read it:

There is a theory which states that a billion monkeys pounding on a billion keyboards will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare.

Thanks to the Internet, we now know this theory is wrong.

What Are You Waiting For?

Get easyDNS on your side and move your domains today.

27 Comments to Timeline of an Epic #FAIL: The WikiLeaks Takedown Fiasco

  1. December 8, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    An easy name is always likely to lead to such things… Not to excuse the sloppiness of the press.

  2. Adam Prescott's Gravatar Adam Prescott
    December 8, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Kudos for supporting Wikileaks with your service :)

  3. WTL's Gravatar WTL
    December 8, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the very informative post. It certainly reminds us that people need to check sources before posting. Have you gotten many apologies?

  4. December 8, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    That's actually the Infinite Monkey Theorem. It's real, and there are papers and a proof.

  5. Shannon's Gravatar Shannon
    December 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I'm so sorry that this happened! the whole thing sucks.

  6. December 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    I am disgusted by the lack of elemental fact-checking by all these journalists. Just pathetic!

  7. fred's Gravatar fred
    December 8, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    twitchunt: great candidate for Word of the Year! If no other good comes of your suffering, at least the English language has been enriched!

  8. Gavin's Gravatar Gavin
    December 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I am an easydns customer. Bravo!

  9. Greg's Gravatar Greg
    December 9, 2010 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    An excellent timeline showing damage control in action. Truly an interesting angle on the wikileaks saga.

  10. December 9, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I will try to use your services when I can and recommend you to anyone who needs it. Sucks this happened.

  11. Keith's Gravatar Keith
    December 9, 2010 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    That is a cool story. I had no idea this was going on until your mailout this morning. I hope the extra exposure at least gets you lots of new business.

    I think you're doing the right thing by serving WL. Nicely Done!

  12. Ironyman's Gravatar Ironyman
    December 9, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    It's important to remember that the theft of information was done by a US-DOD employee, not by WikiLeaks. The US Administration is having a fit partly because re-publication by WikiLeaks has the potential to expose US misdeeds. Not the most honorable motive for shooting the messenger.

    I continue to be proud of the honorable decisions EasyDNS takes under difficult circumstances, and of its courageous leader, Mark Jeftovic.

  13. December 9, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Personal feelings aside, wikileaks provides a forum for freedom of speech Isn't that what we are most proud of in the free world.

  14. Guy's Gravatar Guy
    December 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Its unfortunate that bad journalism was the cause of this incident.

    Thank you for supporting Wikileaks in the end, even if you had 'no choice'.

    Best of luck

  15. Christian's Gravatar Christian
    December 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    While I don't condone your decision. I do recognize the damage this has caused your business. Various press agencies showed reckless disregard for their own financial gain.

    I think you should sue for damages.

  16. brent's Gravatar brent
    December 9, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    everyDNS
    enzoDNS
    erstatDNS
    easyDNS
    emoDNS

    If I were to open a pharmacy chain called "Stoppers Drug Mart" in the city – I'm pretty sure someone would be pissed.

    It's easily confusable. Not excusing the lousy piggyback research…but still. You sound like a smart dude – you had to figure this kind of mixup would happen eventually.

  17. Frances Everett's Gravatar Frances Everett
    December 10, 2010 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Thank you for offering DNS service to domains distributing WikiLeaks content.

    Sorry to hear of all troubles you've been through in the past several days.

    Again, thank you! Stay strong.

    Sincerely,

    F. Everett

  18. Andrew Woodworth's Gravatar Andrew Woodworth
    December 10, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I'm concerned for the domains I host with EasyDNS, but I applaud your actions in this case.

  19. December 10, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I can very well appreciate the stress that this situation has put you and your organization through. From what I've read, I believe that you handled the situation in a very timely & professional manner.
    Our company respects your actions and we will continue to use your services as we have for the past seven years.
    I would definitely be looking for punitive damages done by these very reckless reporting agencies.

  20. Regan's Gravatar Regan
    December 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Censoring and persecuting WikiLeaks is a very easy black/white goodguy/badguy issue. You can easily divide the world between exterminationist totalitarian warmongerers like Joe Lieberman (and the cowards he intimidates) and most of the world's working class. You will gain customers and support from your decision to host WikiLeaks.

  21. December 12, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I copy and paste from a website, the list of organisations, and it was the wrong DNS.

    My sincere apologies.

    Richard.

  22. marcus's Gravatar marcus
    December 13, 2010 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    no one with a rational thought processs cares about this bullsh^t.

    I guesss that's why everyone cares.

  23. John Parker's Gravatar John Parker
    December 13, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Good job! Keep Wikileaks operational! Those in power need to know that their actions may someday be open for all to see!

  24. cyberhippy13's Gravatar cyberhippy13
    December 13, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Mark for supporting Wikileaks, even after all of the trouble that their case has (indirectly) caused you. Huge karma points to you.

    I would also respectfully submit that Gerry (although I applaud his sentiment), might not actually know what punitive damages are. Punitive damages are an extra payment awarded *to* a successful plaintiff, on top of their compensation, not something "done by these very reckless reporting agencies" or anyone else. They are only awarded in cases where the defendant's behaviour is deemed to be egregiously insidious, so to win such an award, you would probably have to prove that the newspapers knew they were printing the wrong name and did it deliberately and maliciously, with the sole intention of damaging easyDNS. Even then it would be a massive stretch, even in the US. They are usually applied only in cases of criminal negligence that result in serious injury or death, like Pacific Gas and Electric (1993), for example.

    What Gerry probably meant was that you should try and get compensatory damages, for tortuous acts. I include this explanation not to show off, or make anyone feel stupid, but simply for the sake of accuracy, and because other people doing this is how I learn stuff.

    Peace.

  25. March 10, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    very useful job for me. thank u!

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