April 4, 2003 10:55 AM PST

Akamai ends Al-Jazeera server support

First came the crushing traffic and the hack attacks. Now Al-Jazeera has lost Web server support for its troubled Internet news efforts.

Akamai Technologies, which provided Web server services to the Arabic news network, abruptly canceled its contract Wednesday after working a short time with the organization. Akamai has more than 13,000 servers worldwide that store data on behalf of clients.

"Akamai worked briefly this week with Al-Jazeera to understand the issues they are having distributing their Web sites. We ultimately decided not to continue a customer relationship with Al-Jazeera, and we are not going to be providing them our services," according to a statement released by Akamai. The company declined to elaborate on the reasons.

It is unclear what effect Akamai's decision has had or will have on Al-Jazeera's Arabic and English-language sites. Its new English-language site was down temporarily this week but was accessible again Friday morning.

The news organization has drawn controversy for its coverage of the war in Iraq. Critics have charged the agency with providing biased coverage, but others have welcomed it as an alternative source of information from the conflict.

A year and a half ago, Cambridge, Mass.-based Akamai found itself caught in the turmoil that has flared up between the United States and the Islamic world. The company's co-founder and chief technical officer, Daniel Lewin, was aboard one of the hijacked flights that crashed into New York's World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The end of the Akamai relationship is the latest setback for Al-Jazeera's Web efforts. Both the Arabic and English versions of the Web site were vandalized last month--visitors were greeted with an American flag and a pro-U.S. message. The apparent hack came on the heels of severe outages caused by waves of traffic.

Al-Jazeera also has had to deal with U.S.-based sites declining to run its advertisements. American Online said that it is not accepting Al-Jazeera ads because it generally does not carry advertising for competitors of its content partners--in this case, ABC News.com and CNN.com, both of which have prominent placement across AOL properties. CNN and AOL are both subsidiaries of AOL Time Warner.

In addition, the news organization's financial correspondents were shut out of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq last month shortly after the U.S. Defense Department complained of Al-Jazeera's coverage that showed dead U.S. soldiers and American prisoners of war held by Iraq.

Al-Jazeera is headquartered in Doha, Qatar, one of the Persian Gulf nations providing bases for U.S. forces. The news channel could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

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