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Fake Site Shutdown Causes Web Hosting Debate

Fake Site Shutdown Causes Web Hosting Debate

In a questionable move, Canada forcefully shut down two parody sites that were posing as genuine Environment Canada websites. The sites reportedly contained information that was critical of the Canadian government. Unfortunately, the take down of these two sites inadvertently resulted in the closure of almost 5,000 innocent websites.

The event transpired the night before a controversial presentation at the Copenhagen climate conference, during which the climate policy of Canada was awarded the “Colossal Fossil” award by the CANI (Climate Action Network International). The parody sites were created by activists from the ActionAid and The Yes Men groups. These activists published press releases that appeared to be issued by the government of Canada, which revealed a powerful initiative to lower emissions and establish a “Climate Debt Mechanism” for the future world. Included in the press releases were links to fraudulent websites posing as “ec-gc.ca” and “environment-canada.ca”.

The two sites recommended possible new policies that intend to correct Canada’s current policy, which has been criticized for its poor emissions reduction targets, and it’s plan to sustain the environmentally hazardous gas and oil industry regardless of the consequences. Although the parody sites appeared to be aiming towards a positive message, officials of the Canadian government were quick to label the sites as “childish pranks.”

To bring down the parody sites, Mike Landreville of Environment Canada sent an email to the sites’ German ISP, in which he advised the company to “make every effort to prevent any further attempts concerning other environment-related domains (enviro, ec-gc, etc.) originating from [their] servers.”
This email resulted in the shutdown of an entire block of IP addresses, which caused over innocent 4500 websites to be unjustly banned, without a single warning phone call or warrant.

In regards to the actions taken by the Canadian government, Mike Bonanno of The Yes Men states: “We are sorry to see that the Canadian government will not ‘take certain actions’ that could help stave off catastrophic climate change”… “And we are also sorry to see that they don’t care so much for free speech.” Although the activists believe their actions are justified, many believe the groups to went overboard by forging documents and creating parody sites that pose as official government sites.

While it may have been necessary for the Canadian government to take the parody sites offline, many believe they overstepped their boundaries by causing the shutdown of so many unrelated sites. It may have been better for the Canadian government to shut down the individual domains through the CIRA’s (Canadian Internet Registration Authority) Dispute Resolution Policy, instead of placing the burden entirely on a foreign (German) ISP. Michael Carr, the chief financial officer of Softcom (a Canadian hosting provider), told the WHIR via email that the German ISP (Serverloft) was unjustly put in a difficult situation, but should have dealt with it differently.

Ultimately, although the situation resulted in the take down of thousands of innocent sites, the activists have successfully drawn attention towards their cause. Even if the sites were only in existence for short period of time, they managed to cause enough controversy to get people thinking.

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