AT&T said to block 4chan; pranksters fight back

After AT&T's broadband customers began reporting they couldn't access the forum site, a fake report surfaced on CNN's iReport alleging that AT&T's CEO was dead.

A fake report on CNN's iReport site alleged that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had been found dead. iReport, screengrab from Business Insider

Reports began to surface Sunday charging that AT&T had blocked broadband access to parts of the notorious (and powerful) Internet forum site 4chan, which the telecom company confirmed on Monday. Late in the evening, a fake story surfaced on CNN's iReport citizen journalism site alleging that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had been "found dead in his multimillion dollar beachfront mansion" after a cocaine overdose.

Suffice it to say that the two events are likely connected. Access to 4chan has since been restored for AT&T broadband customers.

For those who stepped in late: 4chan is sort of like the Internet's equivalent of a league of pirates, den of thieves, or whatever other sort of anarchic analogy you prefer. Decentralized and relying on anonymity, the participants issue large-scale pranks both online and offline, from teaming up with video site eBaumsWorld to launch the "Porn Day" campaign on YouTube to spamming Twitter's trending topics .

The fake iReport disappeared from CNN quickly, perhaps because it read that Stephenson was found "delirious" when "a friend called 911 after a night of what he called, 'male dancers everywhere and the best blow west of the Mississippi.'"

Last October, iReport was the victim of a prank in which a more believable user-submitted story reported that Apple CEO Steve Jobs--who has a well-publicized history of health problems--had suffered a heart attack . It wasn't true, but it was online long enough that Apple's stock took a dip.

AT&T spokesman Michael Coe told CNET News in an e-mailed statement that a denial-of-service attack was what stemmed the temporary block of 4chan traffic and that it has since been restored. "Beginning Friday, an AT&T customer was impacted by a denial-of-service attack stemming from IP addresses connected to," Coe wrote. "To prevent this attack from disrupting service for the impacted AT&T customer, and to prevent the attack from spreading to impact our other customers, AT&T temporarily blocked access to the IP addresses in question for our customers. This action was in no way related to the content at; our focus was on protecting our customers from malicious traffic."

"Overnight Sunday, after we determined the denial-of-service threat no longer existed, AT&T removed the block on the IP addresses in question," the AT&T statement continued. "We will continue to monitor for denial-of-service activity and any malicious traffic to protect our customers."

This post was updated at 9:25 a.m. PT.


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