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 >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

More