When hackers turn on PBS, Newshour turns to hacker tactics for a small victory

Over the long Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., a holiday designed to honor the fallen of current and previous wars, several websites belonging to public broadcaster PBS came under cyber-attack. The attacks by lulzsec claimed to be in retaliation for the recent Frontline edition’s claimed bias covering the ongoing struggle of Wikileaks and the tumultuous legal troubles of Bradley Manning. 

For a portion of the day Monday, PBS’ site displayed a false news account that placed completely unrelated, and also long-dead, rapper Tupac alive and well in New Zealand. The front page had also been modified to carry a message from the perpetrators which derided the coverage of Wikileaks (see the full text of the message here). Additionally, a new page titled “lulz” simply read, “Free Bradley Manning f*ck Frontline”.

Bravo to the response from the stunned but not down PBS Newshour team. Still in need of a place to post clips and transcripts from Monday’s broadcast, the producers turned to Tumblr to keep the message flowing. An update Monday evening read, “As websites for the NewsHour, Frontline and PBS remain under attack by hackers, the NewsHour has published its transcripts and videos from Monday night’s broadcast to Tumblr for the time being.

The tactic of republishing or mirroring content in many places — thereby making it more difficult to silence — has been a hacker staple since the early days of computer bulletin boards. Wikileaks supporters own first response to threats was to widely disseminate the available info it held, making it nearly impossible to contain. NewsHour’s use of Tumblr in an hour of need is an example of hacker tactics succeeding on one side — by taking down the site of a daily news show — and of hacker tactics finding yet another constructive use in journalism. 

A few interesting blow-by-blow screen captures can be found on Boing Boing.


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