% fortune -ae paul murphy

Internet abuse and Cloud Computing

Yesterday, Americans celebrated Independence Day - and I got to spent too much of the day loafing around paging lazily through a whole bunch of more or less nutty political sites.

One of things I noticed was the marked difference in treatment accorded a particularly nasty little controversy around whether or not google was purposely shutting down anti-Obama sites on its blogger.com network.

Here's the salient bit from what appears to have been the first blast of the whistle - by Warner Huston

It looks like Google has officially joined the Barack Obama campaign and decided that its contribution would be to shut down any blog on the Google owned Blogspot.com blogging system that has an anti-Obama message. Yes, it sure seems that Google has begun to go through its many thousands of blogs to lock out the owners of anti-Obama blogs so that the noObama message is effectively squelched.

A bit after writing this he added this update above his original story:

Update: Perhaps it isn't google, but Obamaniacs taking advantage of google's faulty sytem. A commenter explains:

The problem with blogger is that a group of people with an ax to grind can report any blog as spam and after enough complaints, it's automatically suspended until a real live human being can get around to examining it. If enough complaints are registered with blogger, you might get a response within 5 days but it takes a concerted effort. This is a huge problem with blogger and something google needs to get a handle on.

Regardless who is at fault, this shutting down of free speech is disturbing.

As it turns out the person who wrote the comment appears to have been correct: blogger.com, and many of its righter users, seem to have been the victims of a co-ordinated attempt to silence perceived opponents.

At the personal level the resemblence to groklaw's policy of presuring editors to shut up writers critizing them struck me as "a birds-of-a-feather" problem, but what was actually most interesting about the whole mess was that it produced an uproar in the right wing blogosphere but went largely unmentioned, and certainly uncondemned, in the much more populous liberal blogosphere.

The story made headlines, for example, at hotair but appears to have gone unmentioned on dailykos, the huffingtonpost, and moveon.org.

The specific issue is unimportant to most technology managers, but in more general terms this is a problem affecting all of cloud computing: trust your business to an Amazon, a Microsoft, or a Google, and you become vulnerable to a wholly new kind of denial of service attack - one that can be triggered by essentially unrelated employee actions or opinions and hold your entire business hostage to the service provider's business processes.

"Five days" with "a concerted effort" is the guy's description of google's remediation process - and if you don't think a business contract on something like email will ever be treated the same way: think about your business relationship with monopoly suppliers from telcos to Microsoft.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.