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WordPress inaccessible in KZ and KG, spam-bots attack neweurasia, oh my!

Written by on Sunday, 19 June 2011
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Media and Internet
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Editor’s note: WordPress has been mysteriously inaccessible in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan while spam-bots assault neweurasia. Just a coincidence? It’s uncertain, but it’s also part of a disturbing trend. neweurasia’s Askhat and Schwartz report. [Updated]

There are two curious events going on. They’re not necessarily connected, but their timing is interesting: (a) WordPress appears to be inaccessible in Kazakhstan, and by extension, Kyrgyzstan; and meanwhile (b) neweurasia appears to be under some kind of spam attack.

The problem in Kazakhstan began a week ago. neweurasia‘s Askhat reported the following to me via Facebook:

It is the third time when blogs on wordpress.com platform are blocked in last two years. In that situation ban was lifted in 3-5 days. The tricky situation now is that we can not say that is banned in all, thus there is an access via other Internet providers, like Beeline and Opera browser and full access to www.wordpress.com (second domain is banned). Only Kazakhtelecom’s “Megaline” users have problems to open blogs which are hosted on wordpress.com. “Kazakhtelecom’s” account on twitter denied the block. I sent a letter to Wordrpess support group, but still did not get any answer. I am using Opera browser for my blog. Before that I had easy access via Mozilla and other browsers. Yesterday met with deputy who also has blog on WP and can not have an access. He told me that he sent a letter to Kazakhtelecom. Some Kazakh bloggers are planning to write a letter to Kazakhtelecom.

The first alarm about WP was last week on Saturday around 10.00 morning. By the way, from the last year I have counted around 500 new blogs registered on kk.wordpress.com (Kazakh version of the WP). In KZ Kazakg language bloggers using WP platform, but mostly the content is not political. Previusly I had dubt that WP situation is somehow related with Google.kz issue, but I am not a technical specialist. I would be happy to see any comments from technical specialist who can explain the technical aspect.

Today over Twitter, Askhat adds,

Already one week! #Mozilla, #Chrome, #IE knocking the #wordpress blogs door. No answer! Banned in #Kazakhstan? Only #Opera opened.

Opera is, of course, the leading web browser in several parts of the CIS, including Kazakhstan, so this is relatively good news. [Ed: KazakhTelecom is the operator of the national data transfer network, which connects the major cities of Kazakhstan and controls 49 percent of the country’s leading mobile operator, GSM Kazakhstan, and 50 percent of another cellular operator, Altel, according to the book Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights and Rule in Cyberspace (2010).] It’s also not surprising that Kyrgyzstan would be swept up into the situation, as much of their telecommunications are dependent upon Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, neweurasia has found itself under what could be a spam attack. Last weekend, at precisely the time that WordPress began having problems in Kazakhstan, the English site (which is the first port of call for spam-bots) was inundated with 850 spam comments. I deleted them, and within three hours, we already had 70 more — an incredible rate. Normally we get about 20 spam comments per day, but as the week progressed, we were getting an average of 100. Today alone we were hit by 251. The weekend’s total: another whopping 844 860 932 [Ed: as of Monday, we've been hit by +350]. And they aren’t small, either: they average between 650 and 2200 characters, and some are as many as 17,600.

There could be a technical explanation. I’m no guru on these kind of subjects, but perhaps the combination of the WordPress network’s inaccessibility and our status as the largest free-standing WordPress-enabled blog in Central Asia is causing some kind of trackback tsunami. Nevertheless, this also isn’t the first time we’ve found ourselves under the frying pan (if you’ll forgive the lousy pun). During my tenure as managing editor, we’ve been spam-bombed at least twice before: in December 2010 (strangely enough, around the time we published the first part of the Alpamysh epic translated by neweurasia‘s Paksoy), and earlier, in July 2010 (and believe it or not, there was reason to believe Tajikistan of all places could have been the culprit).

One last tidbit: all of this follows hot on the heels of the recent troubles between Kazakhstan and Google. For the conspiracy-minded among you, however, I would like to direct your attention to an exploration of the subtleties and possible explanations by The Registan‘s Michael Hancock (here).

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