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Rep. DeLauro Signs Change.org's Call for Clinton to Condemn China DDoS Attacks

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, April 26 2011

Change.org, the increasingly high-profile political petitioning site, has really banging pots around the story that its systems are being targeted by "Chinese hackers" angered by the more than hundred thousand signatures they've pulled in on a petition, started by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, protesting the Beijing detention of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Since the DDoS attacks began last week, the company has been calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to stand up and denounce the action, on the grounds that if she's supposed to be a leader on global "Internet freedom," an international online attack against an American company is the sort of thing she really ought to speak out on.

It's a pretty politically savvy tactic for the company, which launched in 2007. "This is an ongoing, highly sophisticated attack on a U.S. company specifically designed to suppress the ability and legal right of American citizens to organize around the issues they care about," said Change.org co-founder Ben Rattray in a statement. The company has been tweeting at big names like Anderson Cooper and Andrea Mitchell to "ask @statedept to condemn Chinese attack on @Guggenheim @change campaign to free Ai Weiwei." If Clinton was willing to come out and defend Google Inc. when its systems were attacked from China last year, a company rep suggested, why won't she do it for Change.org?

Well, Change.org's campaign has found an ally on Capitol Hill. In a new letter to Clinton, Connecticut Democrat Rep. Rosa DeLauro writes, "The American public rightly expects protection from foreign cyber-attacks against digital communications.  As millions of Americans regularly use the Internet to engage in the political process, it is vital that we strive to protect online services, which facilitate open debate.  I believe this attack on Change.org from outside of the United States is an attack on Americans’ fundamental right to free speech and another example of the Government of China’s intent to restrain human rights."

DeLauro goes on, "In a speech last year, you made clear the U.S intention to address issues related to internet freedom with China 'candidly and consistently in the context of our positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship.'  I strongly agree with this approach, and accordingly respectfully urge the State Department to condemn this attack on Change.org and call on the Chinese government to take swift action to ensure that this attack and others like it in the future are stopped swiftly and that the perpetrators are brought to justice."

What do you make of it all? I've heard the complaint from one experienced online activist that Change.org here looks willing to cynically exploit a man's imprisionment just to raise their site's profile. That said, more people know the name "Ai Weiwei" than they did before all this.