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.