Thursday, December 20, 2012
Black Lotus Communications, which “prevents malicious traffic from reaching” websites, such as a Denial-of-service attack (DDoS), has announced their decision to donate revenue made from the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) to charity. The company has confirmed their intentions in a statement to Wikinews.
“We have received overwhelming support for donations to be given to various groups supporting the Newtown community, veterans groups like the Wounded Warrior Project, and LGBT groups like The Trevor Project”, said Jeffrey Lyon, Certified Information Systems Security Professional with the Black Lotus team, to Wikinews. Lyon also says The United Way may be the first charity to receive their donation. “We’ve not [yet] made a formal decision,” Lyon noted, but the company “supports all of these groups and will give very serious consideration in ensuring that our donations have a strong impact.”
The announcement comes after the internet activist group known as Anonymous called on the companies that host and protect the Church’s website to discontinue providing services to them after the Church announced their decision to protest funerals of those killed in the December 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. According to Lyon the company decided to donate revenue made from WBC to charity after, “‘Anonymous’ supporters began a full blown Twitter campaign boycotting any company who provides services to WBC.” Lyon also said the company, “reached out to Anonymous spokespersons and asked their opinions on how the matter should be handled.”
The attack on WBC has been dubbed ‘#OpWestBor’ on the social network site Twitter. As part of the operation, the Church’s website was defaced and taken offline for most of the day Monday. Twitter accounts belonging to Shirley Phelps-Roper, the Church’s spokeswoman, and leader Fred Phelps, were hacked and taken over by Anonymous. At the time of this report, both accounts were still under control of the group. Roper’s account has been under the control of Anonymous since early Monday morning.
On Sunday, in a video posted on YouTube, Anonymous announced their intentions saying, “From the time you have received this message, our attack protocol has past been executed and your downfall is underway. Do not attempt to delude yourselves into thinking you can escape our reach, for we are everywhere, and all-seeing, in the same sense as God. … We will render you obsolete. We will destroy you. We are coming.” As a result of the breach, Anonymous claims to have gained access to and leaked alleged personal information such as names, home addresses and telephone numbers belonging to Church members. On Wednesday, following the leak, Twitter suspended one of Anonymous’ most followed accounts ‘@YourAnonNews’, claiming, according to Anonymous, that the profile posted “private and confidential information” regarding the lawyer for WBC and Roper. The account was reinstated a short time later and that is when Black Lotus contacted Anonymous.
“As a security service, we value freedom of expression … and have mandate to guarantee passage of data across the internet, which ultimately means that companies like Black Lotus should not interrupt services based solely on public opinion. By terminating their service, we would not actually take their sites offline. Instead, they would be without DDoS protection for a short period of time until they found another service that would harbor them. This logic did not add up for us”, Lyon added. He would not elaborate on how long WBC has sought the services of Black Lotus, but stated, “they did not come to us because of any one specific attack.”
Lyon didn’t state how much revenue is made from WBC, but he added the amount they receive “from WBC is very small.” As a result, Lyon says the company will “actually make donations well in excess” of the fees WBC pays. “These donations will be in the thousands [of dollars], but we’ve not come to a final decision on the exact amounts”, he added. According to Lyon, WBC is aware of the company’s intentions.
“We made it clear that while they have a right to expression, we have a social responsibility [to] ensure our services benefit society and to aid those in need”, said Lyon. Wikinews has contacted the WBC for a statement, but as of this report, no response has been received.
For now, Lyon states only revenue received from the WBC will be considered for donation, but they hope the project can be expanded to include other customers. “While we’re attributing this specific decision to WBC, our long term plan is to expand our philanthropy program to substantially offset any harm that may have been caused by those serving content over our network”, said Lyon. The company hopes to formally announce their decisions in a press release at the end of the week.