International Journal of Inactivism (now supplanted by Decoding SwiftHack)

2008/10/29

You are in a twisting maze of little think-tanks, all different

cite as: F. Bi. 2008. You are in a twisting maze of little think-tanks, all alike. Intl. J. Inact., 1:162–163
cite as: F. Bi. 2008. You are in a twisting maze of little think-tanks, all different. Intl. J. Inact., 1:162–163

So, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) is still busy pointing out that Al Gore is Fat (and therefore global warming’s a scam!). No matter, because Brian D has uncovered something made of Epic Win: he found that the IP address 198.161.90.18 is host to not 5, or 6, or 7, but — let’s put it this way — a whole metric truckload of free-market think-tank web sites!

And yes, the TCPR site is one of them.

Now, it’s not unusual for several disparate web sites to be hosted on the same machine under the same IP address. But a single IP hosting several ‘independent’ web sites with similar goals — especially when the hosting company normally doesn’t do this1? I think it means something non-trivial is going on — probably involving, say, someone buying lots of ‘independent’ domain names in bulk.

(There’s a more extended discussion by Brian over at Manpollo.)

Footnotes

  1. The address 198.161.90.80 is for the San Francisco Climate Challenge, whose site happens to be one of the Lexicom Ltd.’s showcase sites. Note that the SFCC site shares the same IP with several other sites of largely unrelated content.
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10 Comments »

  1. 198.161.90.80 may not be the best example — several ideological clumps are still present, and interestingly, on *both* sides. You’ll find the “International Research Foundation”, which is linked to the inactivist Fraser Institute, and OneAtmosphere.Org, which cites the (identically-hosted) SFClimateChallenge.

    I’m writing to some of my more-connected friends about this; I’ll use this post and the previous one as the link to coordinate.

    It’d be interesting to see which other “198.161.90.**” addresses have been bought in bulk by ideologues. I wonder if Lexicom Ltd. publishes a client list.

    By the way, different reverse IP tools return different amounts of domains under 198.161.90.18. DomainTools returns 50, while Webhosting returns 48. I don’t know if this is significant (since I can’t see the domains DomainTools returns but Webhosting misses), but it’s worth mentioning for completeness.

    Just to clarify, I got involved with Manpollo through Greg’s (wonderingmind42’s) videos on YouTube, and my Manpollo forum name is based on my YouTube account name. Yes, that is me writing where Frank links. (As if my propensity to employ a plethora of parentheses and polysyllabic terms isn’t a dead giveaway.)

    Comment by Brian D — 2008/10/29 @ 21:18 | Reply

  2. …Running a few more reverse IPs on those listed in your diagram produces some interesting results. I haven’t looked too deep into the anti-taxation sites, but the climate and libertarian ones all seem to cite each other (unsurprisingly), and that Lexicom shows up more than once (they own three of the five IPs listed there — all the 191.*.*.* IPs are theirs).

    There are also two North American sites that virtually all of these link to that are NOT on those servers (i.e. had domains before these were purchased) — the Cato Institute, and the Fraser Institute (the latter is the ‘home turf’ of Ross McKitrick; Willie Soon is also affiliated).

    I’ll do more digging after I’m done in the lab today.

    Comment by Brian D — 2008/10/29 @ 21:54 | Reply

  3. Find the spider at the centre. Let’s nail this sucker.

    Comment by James Haughton — 2008/10/30 @ 01:32 | Reply

  4. Well I sort of thought as much.

    As Brian points out this is not that unusual per se, but my suspicion is that they are overwhelmingly shells and the nominal host person is all there is to 3/4s of these “civic groups.”

    That they coordinate and cooperate is not much of a story. That 37 “civic groups” actually comprises 43 (for eg) people is a bit more interesting.

    The few I’ve looked at do not mention membership, staff size, etc … IMHExperience this is a sign on a one man show with no constituency.

    Comment by greenfyre — 2008/10/30 @ 03:52 | Reply

  5. There are also two North American sites that virtually all of these link to that are NOT on those servers (i.e. had domains before these were purchased) — the Cato Institute, and the Fraser Institute (the latter is the ‘home turf’ of Ross McKitrick; Willie Soon is also affiliated).

    Now this looks really interesting — though I’m not sure what it means yet.

    Anyway, by the ‘old’ Fraser site I was referring to oldfraser.lexi.net (which is linked from the International Policy Network site). The ‘new’ Fraser site seems to be run on a pretty dedicated machine.

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/10/30 @ 04:00 | Reply

  6. Find the spider at the centre. Let’s nail this sucker.

    My thoughts exactly. Although I don’t know which string to pull on just yet. (I was assuming it’s a North American initiative since most of these sites appear NA-centric, and the US is the most vocal nation in the libertarian/antitax movement.)

    By the way, Frank, try running Cato through a reverse IP (I’m still checking some of the results). Apparently, they host the website for a think-tank-themed softball league. The image is rather amusing, if not pertinent to this discussion.

    Comment by Brian D — 2008/10/30 @ 04:16 | Reply

  7. All the “CSC” sites are Drupal-based, which suggests a common web person, if not server.

    Who paid for the domains, and the hosting? That will be the Heart* of the issue…

    Comment by Gareth — 2008/10/30 @ 07:11 | Reply

  8. The few I’ve looked at do not mention membership, staff size, etc …

    In the case of the ‘Pakistani’ think-tank, my guess is they just hire some random bloke on the ground to act as a front, while they supply the actual ‘independent’ content from the US or Canada.

    Apparently, they host the website for a think-tank-themed softball league.

    This is some pretty weird stuff.

    (Also, if you disable CSS (View | Page Style | No Style, under Mozilla), you can see lots of links to a certain web site that sells Viagra or something. But I digress.)

    Who paid for the domains, and the hosting? That will be the Heart* of the issue…

    It’s also the hardest question to answer, alas. 😐

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/10/30 @ 07:20 | Reply

  9. Interestingly, the web site elcato.org (a Spanish site under the Cato Institute) is hosted at the same IP as privacilla.org, which is ostensibly some sort of independent (?) ‘open source repository’ for “Privacy Policy from a Free-market, Pro-technology Perspective”.

    This is really, really weird stuff.

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/10/30 @ 11:33 | Reply

  10. […] overlapping web that frankbi is documenting at the International Journal of […]

    Pingback by Death by fire and ice « Greenfyre’s — 2008/12/30 @ 12:39 | Reply


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