Verizon reportedly blocks archivists from Yahoo Groups days before deletion

Screenshot of the Yahoo Groups home page, showing a collection of people jumping in the air and a message that says,

Enlarge / The Yahoo Groups home page (for now).

An ad-hoc group scrambling to archive as much content as possible from Yahoo Groups ahead of the site’s final demise next week is running into trouble as more than a hundred volunteer archivists say Yahoo’s parent company, Verizon, has banned their accounts.

Yahoo Groups has been on the wane for years, but Verizon announced its official date of death two months ago. Users were blocked from uploading or posting new content to the site as of October 28, and all content currently on the site is slated to be deleted on December 14—less than one week from now.

Members of the Archive Team have been working rapidly to preserve content from as many groups as possible in that six-week time frame. The volunteers have been using “semi-automated” scripts to join groups rapidly and are using a third-party tool known as PGOffline to access messages, photos, and files not captured by Verizon/Yahoo’s data download or export tool. They estimate that as a result of this weekend’s blocks, they have now lost access to 80 percent of the material they were attempting to preserve.

One volunteer working on the effort shared a response she received from Verizon in a blog post yesterday. The Verizon representative said the 128 volunteers from Archiveteam.org, who joined groups with the intent of archiving them, were banned for violating the Verizon Media terms of service and would not be able to have their accounts reinstated.

“I understand your usage of groups is different from the majority of our users, and we understand your frustration,” the Verizon employee added. “However, the resources needed to maintain historical content from Yahoo Groups pages is cost-prohibitive, as they’re largely unused.”

This is not the first time Verizon and the Archive Team have butted heads. Almost exactly a year ago, members of the Archive Team working to preserve Tumblr content had their accounts banned. In that case, however, volunteers found their way around Verizon’s block and continued their work within a day.

The Organization for Transformative Works—the nonprofit best known for running the decade-old, Hugo-winning fanfiction site Archive of Our Own—has joined the chorus calling on Verizon to postpone the deletion date by six months, until May 14, 2020, in order to allow volunteers to archive more material.

Ars has asked Verizon for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

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