Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Change.org Asks for State Department Help Fending Off Chinese Hackers

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, April 19 2011

Photo credit: sanfamedia.com

Change.org says that they're the victim of a distributed denial of service attack perpetrated by "Chinese hackers."

The target, it seems, is a petition that is calling for the release of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who has been in custody in Beijing since early this month. The petition has 92,000 signatures at the moment. Change.org, an online and open petitioning platform, says it's calling for help from the U.S. State Department after the site was made inaccessible for several hours yesterday. "Without government assistance there are limits to what we can do," says founder Ben Rattray.

The full release is after the jump. (HT Matt Lockshin)

Chinese Hackers Attack Change.org Platform in Reaction to Ai Weiwei Campaign
Attackers use distributed denial of service attack to bring down the world’s fastest growing social action platform after more than 90,000 people in 175 countries call for release of Chinese dissident artist.

19 April, 2011 – Chinese hackers temporarily brought down the world’s fastest-growing social action platform after more than 90,000 people in 175 countries endorsed an online call for the release of internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Weiwei, best known for his role in the construction of the Beijing Olympic stadium and his recent Sunflower Seeds exhibition at the Tate Modern, has become an increasingly outspoken critic of the Chinese government in recent years, in particular over the handling of the 2008 earthquake in the country’s Sichuan province.

The cyber attack on Change.org follows the viral success of a petition calling for Ai Weiwei’s release by leading global art museums, including the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Tate Modern, London, as well as the Association of Art Museum Directors. The campaign is attracting more than 10,000 new supporters a day and is now the most popular international campaign on Change.org, the world’s fastest growing activism platform with some 3.5 million monthly visitors.

The distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack began early Monday and made the site completely inaccessible for a few hours. Change.org issued a formal request for urgent assistance to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian Pacific Affairs within hours of the attack.

“We do not know the reason or exact source of these attacks,” said Ben Rattray, the founder of Change.org. “All we know is that after the unprecedented success of a campaign by leading global art museums using our platform to call on the Chinese government to release Ai Weiwei, we became the victims of highly sophisticated denial of service attacks from locations in China.”

“We've notified the U.S. State Department of the situation and asked for their immediate assistance,” Rattray added. “Our engineers have been able to keep up the site during parts of the attack, but we've had some down time and without government assistance there are limits to what we can do.”

Change.org, a platform which allows anyone, anywhere to launch online social action campaigns, has been blocked in China at various points over the last few years.

 

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

First POST: Front Pagers

How Facebook's trending topics feed is wrecking political news; debating the FBI's need for an encrypted phone "backdoor"; democratizing crisis data; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Tracking

Questions about whether Whisper is secretly tracking its users' secrets; the FBI's continued push against the new wave of encrypted phones; community service, high-tech-mogul-style; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Hosts

Airbnb in hot water in NYC; Knight Prototype Fund backs some civic tech projects; pondering Google's position on net neutrality; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Africa Calling

How some techies are starting to respond to the Ebola crisis; everything you need to know about GamerGate; how Twitter may upset the 2015 UK elections; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Burrowing

How Democratic candidates down-ballot are getting access to the same voter targeting tools used by larger campaigns; Microsoft Bing rolls out its election prediction program; Edward Snowden's first emails to Laura Poitras; and much, much more. GO

More