Verizon Is Undermining Efforts To Archive Yahoo Groups...For No Coherent Reason

from the ill-communication dept

Verizon's often sad efforts to pivot from curmudgeonly old telco to sexy new Millennial advertising giant have not gone as the company had hoped. From the failure of its Go90 streaming service to its clumsy effort to turn AOL and Yahoo into a Facebook-killing ad empire, Verizon often can't get out of Verizon's way. The "consumer comes last" executive mindset of the government-pampered telecom monopoly is frequently reflected by its policies, like Verizon's decision to acquire Tumblr, ban one of the most compelling aspects of the service (adult content and art), then turn around and sell it at a massive loss.

When archivists attempted to try and preserve a lot of the adult-themed art that Verizon was jettisoning, Verizon responded by banning archivist IP ranges for no coherent reason. Much like Facebook, Verizon positively adores looking at a controversial situation, then coming up with the worst possible policy and PR response. You know, like that time they hired a fake journalist to pretend the company wasn't trying to kill net neutrality.

Another case in point. Back in October, Verizon and Yahoo informed users of Yahoo Groups that the 20 year community would be shut down coming this December 14. Archivists set about trying to catalog and store the decades of conversations, images, and content on the platform. But Verizon being Verizon, those archivists now say the company is actively undermining their efforts, including banning Archive Team email addresses being used to archive content, and actively blocking tools used for the same purpose:

"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).

On top of that, something Yahoo did has killed the last third party tool that users and owners have been using to access their messages, photos and files. (PGOlffine).. Note: not everyone who paid for the PGOffline license is being impacted by the problem. but the developer does not have a workaround."

Under Section 230 Verizon faces no liability for the content shared on the platform, and there's no valid reason for them to be fighting back against archival efforts. Yet here we are. Verizon didn't respond to several requests for comment, so it's hard to understand what the telco is thinking, if it's thinking at all. I spoke briefly to Archive Team co-founder Jason Scott and Cory Doctorow, both of whom were than impressed by the company's tone deafness:

"What they are doing is burning 20 years of history and archives maintained by communities with a non-functioning system for backing them up," he said. “They made no real preparations for users to pull the information out because companies like Yahoo! were never designed to allow information to leave their walled gardens."

“This is 20 years of communities, discussion and artifacts from millions of groups, all representing learned information, legal and historical references, and naturally, the conversations of tens of millions of users,” Scott said. “Some of it is likely worthless and some of it is likely precious. It is all being treated like trash."

It's one thing for Verizon to shutter the platform. It's another for Verizon to actively block harmless efforts to preserve 20 years of internet history ahead of the shutdown. But being a government pampered monopoly in a largely non competitive market has left Verizon ill-prepared to actually listen to the communities it impacts (especially when there's no money to be made by doing so), a major reason Verizon's pivot from telco to new media ad darling hasn't quite gone according to plan.

Updated: After Verizon's behavior resulted in some unwanted media attention, the company has finally changed its stance. It now tells me it has extended the deadline for the Yahoo Groups shut down to Friday, January 31, 2020 at 11:59pm PST.

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Filed Under: archives, blocks, digital history, groups, history, yahoo groups
Companies: archive team, internet archive, verizon, yahoo

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Dec 2019 @ 4:12pm

    didn't they undermine the effort to archive the tumblr content that being removed as well?

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