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Pagewaxing (and countermeasures)

Pagewaxing is a term coined to describe a ruthless campaign of censorship against a specific Internet resource (page, site, etc.) or author. Such a censorship campaign could be initiated by an underhanded competitor, mortal enemy, political opponent, offended(-sive) religious zealot, etc., etc.
Pagewaxing can have any number of sinister motives... to sabotage your business, to make difficult for you, to discourage public debate on an important community issue, to "take care of" a so-called dangerous idea or political principle ... but most often, it is initiated by a large corporation to viciously guard its profit margin using any necessary means. Consumer opinion is the potential Achilles' heel of any business--if a company leaves in its wake a trail of disgruntled and unsatisfied customers, their dissuasion of other potential customers (not to mention agitated calls for petitions and boycotts) can be a well-deserved devastator to the company's bottom line.
But whatever the company's purpose, the end result is the same--a full-fledged (and oftentimes successful) attack on protected free-speech rights and the silencing of yet another innocent attack often motivated by nothing more than pure greed.

Rather than discussing corporate agendas at-length, a brief example may help clarify things more effectively...:

It's a sad truth that some larger corporations employ methods to actively seek out and surveil the voices of public opinion--sometimes with the help of an outside PR firm--taking action as necessary to neutralize any vocal criticism of the company, as well as other speech and opinions that may have a direct impact on the way the company does its business. For some, any bad publicity whatsoever is perceived as a damaging threat to the corporation and may be acted against. No, it doesn't have to be the Nuremberg Files to be the target of a censorship campaign. You'd be surprised how even some of the most innocuous consumer complaints are viciously attacked.

The earmarks of pagewaxing (as it appears to the rest of the world)

These, unfortunately, are all too common sights for webmasters that dare track a controversial resource or one with a significant enemy(ies). A web site will seem to be hosted on quicksand; it will sink and disappear from any system it is served from... it will relocate, relocate, relocate... hosting agreements will seem to "rot" into thin air as the assailant lodges complaints and threats with the ISP/server administrator(s), maintaining any kind of up-to-date link to it becomes a time-consuming (not to mention dangerous!) chore... in many cases, the author or legal guardian of these pages will simply give up the fight, rather than waste ungodly amounts of time--and risk financial devastation in the form of a lawsuit--trying to resurrect the censored materials everytime they are shot down.

The true damaging roots of pagewaxing go much deeper: the actions of corporate censors chip away at the rights of every citizen to speak freely and express the freedoms granted to them by (most of) their governments. These rights are protected by the First Amendment in the US, while the free-speech rights of citizens in (most) other countries are guarded by similar provisions. Corporate censorship is a multinational phenomenon.

The Censor's Bag of Tricks
I know how hyperbolic this all sounds, especially to newer Web users who haven't read much about dot-com lawsuits and threats yet. But sadly, it's so rampant people even crack jokes about it....

A corporate pagewaxer can achieve its unwholesome goals in any number of ways... but they do, in large part, build their attempts on fear--the object being to frighten their victim to silence, to pretending it never happened, to clapping trap to avoid massive retaliation. The intimidation factor is by far the most widely-used tool of the censoring entity; often its enormous size and power alone are enough to successfully bully its target. (An aside: Corporate censors are by no means limited to the Internet--the same tactics are used pervasively in the Real World to harass company critics as well.) Where Internet censorship is concerned, megacorps can even bypass their target and use their size to muscle the target's ISP or hosting company, interfering with the customer/provider relationship and putting the entire ISP's business in jeopardy. (Note: For the purposes of this page, "ISP" also refers to any sort of Web hosting company.)

A corporate censor can also target the business and sponsorship ties of the ISP. They can smear the ISP's reputation among its business partners and sponsors, putting these ties in danger, or even pull sponsorship directly, if the waxer is a sponsor of the ISP. They can blackmail an ISP; if the waxer owns or can influence a large Web domain (such as they can threaten to ban the entire ISP (and all its customers) from its domains if its demands are not met. As you can imagine, the ISP's customers would be quite unhappy to know that they're not entitled to the "unlimited" total Internet access they're paying full price for. Either way, depending on the breadth of the waxer's action, this could spell financial ruin for the ISP, and so it will probably bend to the whim of the waxer if such methods are successfully used.

Probably the most dangerous trick in the pagewaxer's book involves civil damage suits known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).
SLAPP suits exploit such legal statutes as defamation/libel/slander, copyright, and trademark infringement to silence opposition and present a hostile environment for criticism of their business, goals, political agenda, etc., etc. According to the ACLU website, SLAPP suits have recently been used "by powerful economic interests seeking to silence criticism and public debate." Although such suits are illegal in many states, legal threats still seem to be the weapon of choice among many corporate pagewaxers. (For more on SLAPPs, see SLAPPgate and the California Anti-Slapp Project, which tells you how to identify SLAPPs and protect yourself against them.)

Among waxers, GeoCities (yes, they've tried to wax me!), AOL and the Church of $cientology are probably among the more notorious for their litigation threats against critics. Other known legal-threat waxers include Intel, Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, Terminix and many others.

Pagewaxing Prevention and Countermeasures

The best guard against pagewaxers is a good ISP and a working knowledge of the law. A good ISP is one that is strongly against censorship (don't put your waxables on AOL!!) and isn't likely to bend to pressure from your site assailant. For example, ISPs that get advertising money from whoever's gunning for your pages are NOT a good choice.

Paid hosting? Lawyers? I can't afford that!
Unfortunately, waxers often target pages on "free" webhosts because they know these are the easiest to censor...often, a simple request for removal is all it takes for someone with powerful corporate interests to get a page zapped--while a traditional ISP values its paying customers, a FWP needn't be so concerned about a single, non-paying member, especially if the carrot of sponsorship is held in front of its nose. Some ambitious Web folk have come up with interesting mechanisms to resist censorship, including legal and political pressure. One is the Eternity Service [and another Eternity Service], which is based on ideas presented in Ross Anderson's paper by the same name. Another, which works in a similar manner (albeit much better) than the whack-a-mole or "smoke and mirrors" tactic explained later, is the Rewebber Network, explained here. Also, check out this tuorial on hiding your page's URL.

No matter where you put your site, here are some anti-wax tips:

When you can't afford paid hosting (or can't seem to keep a page up even there!)

There are some sites that don't hold up well even on paid webhosting accounts. If this applies to your pages, there's always the ol' smoke and mirrors game. The idea is to hide your identity (the smoke) and post as many copies of your pages in as many free Web locations as you can (the mirrors) and register them all with major search engines. (This is variously referred to as the whack-a-mole technique, with reference to the popular amusement.) The whole point of this is not to stop the waxer from censoring your page, but to replicate it faster than it can be censored. If you want, you can get a url redirector so that your pages can move all over the 'net and still be accessible from a single URL. Some redirectors include, (Warning!! Will try to auto-install crap on your viewers' computers, including Gator and Xupiter spyware), and Just make sure the waxer can't get your redirector killed off too!

The key to success of this plan is anonymity, anonymity, anonymity! Whenever you sign up an FWP account to stick a copy on, be SURE you fill it out with bogus info. Don't put in your web account signups, or even on the pages, any identifying info the waxer can use to track you down and send you lawsuits with. The other key is actually having more free time than the waxer, so that you can easily out-post your censors without taking time out of your day from other activities. Depending on the popularity of your topic/position/etc., you can even offer your pages as a .zip file, and encourage readers to mirror it themselves, thereby taking a lot of workload off your back.

Other alternatives
Never under-estimate the power of Newsgroups to get your message across! Unless they want to illegally forge Usenet cancels, your site assailant will be able to do nothing against a text strategically posted to the appropriate newsgroup(s). Just don't forget to send it via anonymous remailer if possible.

Two up-and-coming systems, Freenet and the Eternity Service, are designed specifically to provide an anonymous, decentralized data haven for controversial materials. The architecture of both of these systems is such that popular materials are automatically copied over to multiple systems (nodes); documents can (theoretically) stay in the system forever. Cons: The "general public" is largely unfamiliar with these systems; use is currently feasible for storing out-of-reach of censors, but not for getting the word out to the masses.

Anti-Censorship proxy serversSurfMonkey: Censorware with browser included
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