The Stockholm-based web host PeRiQuito AB, or PRQ, has long attracted some of the most controversial sites on the Internet. Now it's attracted a less friendly guest: Sweden's police force.
Stockholm police raided the free-speech focused firm Monday and took four of its servers, the company's owner Mikael Viborg told the Swedish news outlet Nyheter24.
While a number of bittorrent-based filesharing sites including PRQ's most notorious client, the Pirate Bay, have been down for most of Monday as well as PRQ's own website, Viborg told the Swedish news site that the site outages were the result of a technical issue, rather than the police's seizure of servers. And it's not yet clear exactly whose servers the police seized: PRQ's two thousand or so customers have at times included WikiLeaks, the Kavkaz Central, and the defamation-accused Italian blog known as Perugia Shock, among others.
"Even though I loathe what they say, I defend them," Viborg said last August,. "We don't cooperate with the authorities unless we absolutely have to."
As of last summer, Viborg said that PRQ continued to host WikiLeaks. But he said that the company no longer had any direction connection with the Pirate Bay, which has instead bounced among temporary hosts since its founders were convicted of copyright theft in 2010.
Two of the three Pirate Bay founders also created PRQ in 2004, and one of them is Gottfrid Svartholm, a 27-year old Swede who was arrested in Cambodia last month after being convicted of copyright crimes in absentia, and is now also being charged with hacking into the IT firm Logica.
PRQ has been raided twice before: In 2006, to gather evidence in the police investigation of the Pirate Bay, and again in 2010, in an operation targeting a filesharing network known as "the Scene."
WikiLeaks noted the raid in its Twitter feed Monday, describing PRQ as "one of a number of ISPs used by WikiLeaks." But as of Monday afternoon, the secret-spilling site hadn't been taken offline.
For now, even PRQ's owners may not know the reason behind the raid. Viborg has told me that the company has a policy of no-questions-asked service for many of its customers, even accepting cash payments up front to avoid requiring any bank payment details that might identify its server room's inhabitants. "Generally we don't know who our customers are," Viborg said. "By Swedish law, we're not required to."
Rumors are flying after the Pirate Bay's website took a dive on Monday just as news broke of a raid by Swedish police on its hosting company PRQ - but the group says the two facts are not related.
"Dear internet. We have not been raided. We are not shutting down. We like turtles, waffles and you," the group said on its Facebook page. "Sorry for not fulfilling your pirate needs tonight. It's ok if you cheat on us with another site, just once. We know that you still love us, deep down in your cursed pirate heart."
The site's problems appear to stem from a power outage on its servers rather than the boys in blue making their call. So far, the site has been down, and internet users looking to get their dose of purloined files will have to go to other providers.
While it is true that the Pirate Bay's Swedish hosting company did receive a visit from local police, this does not appear to be the cause of the outage. In an interview with Nyheter24, the current owner of hosting firm PRQ Mikael Viborg said that the police had taken four servers, but at this point it isn't clear what they contained.
"PRQ is known to host the things that no one else wants to host, and not ask any questions. It can be any of those that are targeted. Until we get more details about the servers, I will not speculate on it," Viborg said.
Cofounder Svartholm himself won't know too much about this, of course. After a lengthy period of being incommunicado, Svartholm was tracked down in Cambodia, where he was arrested by the local police and deported to Sweden, where has will be facing charges related to the hacking of IT consultancy business Logica.