China Steps Up Its Cyberwar on Change.org

Apparently, now China is trying to shut down free speech outside its borders as well as within.

On Tuesday, we reported that the Web site Change.org, which is hosting a petition for the release of detained artist Ai Weiwei, stated that it was facing “highly sophisticated denial of service attacks from locations in China,” and that it was appealing to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian Pacific Affairs for help. Well, the latest news is that the attacks haven’t stopped — they have only escalated, and the site says that it has engineers “working around the clock to fend off the attacks.” Below, find the complete text of Change.org’s message sent out to supporters today (in this case, our own ace associate editor Emma Allen) to update them on the situation:

Dear Emma,

The petition demanding the release of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has nearly 100,000 signatures.

Here’s how we know it’s really gotten Beijing’s attention: For the past four days, the Change.org website has been repeatedly targeted by cyber attacks coming from China that aim to bring our site down, which would keep people from signing the petition.

Our engineers are working around the clock to fend off the attacks and, for now, the petition is still up.

We need to let the Chinese government know that illegal tactics from within its borders won’t stop the mounting pressure on them to release Weiwei. If you haven’t already, please click here to share the petition on Facebook to keep spreading the word.

To recap: Acclaimed dissident artist Ai Weiwei — who helped design the famed “Bird’s Nest” stadium for China’s Olympics — was arrested on April 3rd by Chinese security forces at the Beijing airport. His office and studio have been ransacked, and no one has heard from him since.

The international art community banded together, demanding his release — and the directors of more than twenty leading museums (including the Tate Modern, Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim) started a petition on Change.org that has garnered worldwide attention, including in the New York Times, LA Times, and Guardian.

The campaign has helped to give rise to an international outcry. Political leaders around the world are calling for Weiwei’s release and activists have organized peaceful protests at Chinese embassies and consulates.

Though China is desperate to silence its critics, the pressure to free Weiwei continues to grow. You can help by asking five friends to sign the petition:

http://www.change.org/petitions/call-for-the-release-of-ai-weiwei

Autocratic governments know that the internet is a democratizing force, and they’ll do everything they can to suppress online activism. Know that we stand with you for change, and that we will continue to fight to make sure your voice can be heard.

- Patrick and the Change.org team

P.S. Due to these repeated attacks, our site may be slower than usual or unavailable at times over the next few days. Thanks for your patience.