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Tools to Keep Independent Media Online in Hostile Environments

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, May 14 2013

Websites and media outlets in developing countries or countries with corrupt or repressive regimes struggle daily to fend off hacker attacks, some from their own government — like the Malaysian opposition news portal Sarawak Report, which techPresident reported was taken down in April by sustained denial-of-service attacks. The negative attention controversial reporting draws can scare local advertisers away as well, making it difficult for a media company to support itself. Media Frontiers offers two services to websites dealing with either of those problems.

International Media Support, a non-profit that supports free media in developing or conflicted countries, launched Media Frontiers in 2011. The company offers two services, Virtual Road, a secure hosting provider that helps defend sites from hacker attacks, and Diversity Advertising, which helps to bring in revenue from international markets. This service is designed to help fledgling media companies to succeed without continuing help from outside organizations and donors. The incentive Diversity Advertising offers companies and services is a new audience in emerging markets and “niche Diaspora communities” in existing markets.

Thomas Hughes, director of Media Frontiers, said in an interview with IJNet, “There's a direct correlation between the degree of press freedom restriction in a country and the size of the diaspora community living outside of the country.”

IJNet also reported that, since partnering with Media Frontiers, the Zambian Watchdog grew rapidly, both in terms of traffic and income. The Watchdog Editor said that the site fends off hacking attempts on a regular basis and ranks the eighth most-visited sites in Zambia.

The Syria Deeply digital media project also uses Virtual Road, although the best hacking defense in the world won't do much good if the country in question just 'loses' Internet entirely.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.