It is safe to say that The Pirate Bay is one of the most blocked websites on the Internet.
When Internet backbone provider Cogent blackholed the site two weeks ago many people, therefore, assumed that it had something to do with the notorious torrent site.
Ironically, however, it turns out that The Pirate Bay and dozens of other “pirate” sites linked to the same IP-addresses, were actually collateral damage following a separate action.
Cogent’s actions were a direct response to a court order which required the company to block access to one or more websites, which remain unknown. The real target was accessible through the IP-addresses 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124.
These addresses belong to CDN provider Cloudflare and are also used by many other sites including The Pirate Bay. So, when Cogent complied with the court order and blackholed the IP-addresses, dozens of other sites became inaccessible as well.
Yesterday we reported that Cloudflare moved most of the affected sites a new location, so they are now available again. The real target probably remains on the original IP-addresses, to comply with the court order.
Cloudflare’s General Counsel Doug Kramer informed us that they worked together with Cogent to resolve the issue and to limit the impact on other sites.
“We have taken technical steps on our end to permit Cogent to comply with a court order issued to them without additional impacts,” Kramer informed TorrentFreak.
The whole blocking episode reveals the danger of broad blocking orders that are issued by judges who don’t fully understand the effects. The threat of over-blocking is real, and when it involves smaller sites it will be much harder to notice.
“It’s important for courts to understand how Internet systems work so they can write orders that don’t end up having unintended consequences,” Kramer stresses.
In the future, the two companies will now be able to deal with similar issues more efficiently. In any case, Cloudflare says that it remains dedicated to preserving open access to the Internet, within the legal boundaries.
“As a company, Cloudflare believes strongly in an open, free, and secure Internet. And it is also our policy to fully comply with legitimate court process,” Cloudflare’s General Counsel says.
“This can be challenging at times, especially when courts target backbone providers and don’t understand fully how they work. Cloudflare takes steps to make sure those court orders don’t lead to unintended impacts.”
Cogent hasn’t released any further details on the target of the block, but Ars Technica reports that it was issued in Spain.
It’s not the first time that innocent Cloudflare customers have been affected by a court order. Previously, UK ISPs blocked several websites because they were sharing an IP-address with The Pirate Bay. This would also explain why the CDN provider now groups known blocked sites on the same addresses.