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Verizon blocks archivers from Yahoo Groups, almost two decades of history at risk of being lost forever

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Yahoo Groups recently announced that it was going to close – and the reaction was divided. One group of people didn’t know that Yahoo Groups was still a thing and the other group of people lamented its demise as they were still utilizing Yahoo Groups for some obscure use-case.

Even the organization in charge of assigning phone numbers in the UK were using Yahoo Groups for some communication.

As always, when a platform announces that it’s going to close, archivers get to work to archive the content for posterity – so that future generations can still have access to the wealth of information that the platform provided and to keep a record for history.

Yahoo Groups, while now often neglected, was thriving at one point in time and it still has an honorable space in internet history. It makes sense why archivers would want to keep the information from the platform archived and prevent all of that important part of internet history from being deleted forever.

But now, volunteer archivers, in their attempt to archive the information from Yahoo Groups, are now finding that their access is being blocked by Yahoo Groups by its owner Verizon and that there’s now a great risk of the information being gone forever if it’s not archived in time.

A blog that is monitoring the archival efforts, and their subsequent blocking, has said that the attempts to block archiving now mean that, “Verizon has lost all benefit of the doubt, and is likely at least aware of what Yahoo is doing to groups, or is at worst, complicit.”

Yahoo Groups is scheduled to be closed on December 14th and the blocks are leaving an impossible amount of time to archive all of the posts.

“The Internet Archive/Archive Team Faces 80% Loss of Data Due To Verizon Blocking,” said archiver Morgan Dawn.

“The Archive Team (who is working with to save content to upload to the Internet Archive) (sic) was again blocked by Yahoo The block is wiping out the past month of work done by hundreds of volunteers” Dawn continued.

“Yahoo banned all the email addresses that the Archive Team volunteers had been using to join Yahoo Groups in order to download data. Verizon has also made it impossible for the Archive Team to continue using semi-automated scripts to join Yahoo Groups – which means each group must be re-joined one by one, an impossible task (redo the work of the past 4 weeks over the next 10 days).”

One archiver, Andrew, said that Yahoo “decided to block our archival efforts without opening a dialogue with us” and that “realistically the only way we’re going to get anywhere near the number of groups we had joined prior to their mass-banning of our accounts is with an extension to the deletion date.”

Verizon have responded to at least one of the messages of concern, saying that the actions of archivers have violated their Terms of Service.

“Because of this violation, we are unable reauthorize them (sic). Also, moderators of Groups can ban users if they violate their Groups’ terms, so previously banned members will be unable to download content from that Group. If you can send the user information, we can investigate the cause of lack of access,” Verizon said to Brenda, one of the archivers.

Verizon told Brenda that they’ve provided a way for users to takeout their data. However, the solution is wildly incomplete and doesn’t act as a true archival record of the content’s place and time in history – it’s just a data dump. It also will “not download attachments and photos uploaded to the Group by other members,” meaning it’s of little use for true archivers.

Brenda responded:

“If we are allowed to have our archives from Verizon/Yahoo, then we should be able to get them ourselves any way we wish. All Verizon plans to do is throw it away. The stuff you send us is messed up, broken, incomplete, and virus ridden. It is UNACCEPTABLE as a solution. The 128 people you banned were REQUESTED by the group owners to get their stuff. Verizon refuses to give us more time to get it. We can’t do it in 7 days.”

If Verizon doesn’t allow archivers to regain access and/or extend the deadline to a significant degree, the data will be wiped from history.

Here are just some examples of ways Yahoo Groups was being used:

  • A police group in Washington DC was using Groups as a network to communicate with their respective neighborhoods with over 17,000 members
  • A UK phone organization that assigns phone numbers using the groups and now will lose all those phone designations when Groups is deleted
  • A birding group in India with 2,000 members that have collected data and research on birds for two decades will lose their data and access
  • Numerous scientific research groups that have used Groups to communicate and keep data
  • An adoption group in France has been using Groups for several years to communicate and share history and photos.
  • Suicide support groups and information for those who are suicidal or depressed
  • Support groups for the elderly
  • Historical communication groups for veterans – including veterans from World War 2

If Verizon doesn’t change its stance – and change it quickly – the data will be gone, frustrated archivers say.

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, join Reclaim The Net.

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