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 thursday >

NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

More