It has been described as the “largest data massacre in the history of the internet”. The flamboyant founder of the file-storage website Megaupload, who calls himself Kim Dotcom, said he was in tears after being told that huge amounts of company data – some of it he claimed was evidence to be used in ongoing legal battles – had been permanently deleted by a European hosting firm.
A row broke out after Mr Dotcom posted on social media that he had been told the company which owns the servers that stored the data had “wiped” them all. He wrote: “All user data and crucial evidence for our defense destroyed ‘without warning’.”
But the Dutch server host LeaseWeb retaliated, insisting it had repeatedly tried to contact Mr Dotcom and his lawyers before deleting the information, but had received no response. In a statement, the firm said it had stored Megaupload data, which Mr Dotcom said included his own personal files, for more than a year for no fee and needed to offer the servers to other clients.
In a series of posts on Twitter on Wednesday, an apparently enraged Mr Dotcom wrote: “Millions of personal Megaupload files, petabytes of pictures, backups, personal & business property forever destroyed by LeaseWeb.
“LeaseWeb has NOT warned us about deleting Megaupload servers. They informed us TODAY that servers were deleted on 1 February 2013.”
And, in later posts, he wrote: “Our lawyers have repeatedly asked LeaseWeb not to delete Megaupload servers while court proceedings are pending in the US. LeaseWeb says we did not ask them to preserve Megaupload data. Our lead legal counsel Ira Rothken says we did. Who’s lying?”
Mr Dotcom was arrested at his New Zealand home earlier this year and is fighting extradition to the US, where he is wanted for allegedly making more than £110m in illegal profits from online piracy. He is accused of copyright infringement, among other offences, and could face up to 50 years in jail.
He said: “[The FBI has] seized all my data and hasn’t given me a copy yet. And now my backups on Megaupload are gone too. How convenient.
“Think about it. The data in the world’s largest copyright case is getting deleted with Department of Justice blessing. How does that make sense? It’s EVIDENCE.”
He wrote on his Twitter account: “Shame on you LeaseWeb. You made millions in profits with Megaupload. Your actions shall be remembered by our users and the Internet.”
LeaseWeb, which manages 60,000 servers and has 15,000 clients, confirmed it wiped the information from the 630 dedicated servers that Megaupload rented from it. In its statement, the firm said: “These servers ... were owned by LeaseWeb. For over a year these servers were being stored and preserved by LeaseWeb, at its own costs... “During the year we stored the servers and the data, we received no request for access nor any request to retain the data. After a year of nobody showing any interest in the servers and data we considered our options. We did inform Megaupload about our decision to re-provision the servers.
“As no response was received, we commenced the re-provisioning of the servers in February 2013... it is a standard procedure at LeaseWeb to completely clean servers before they are offered to any new customer.”