January 13, 2017 Last Updated 2:52 pm

Forgive and forget? When journalists, publishers continue to deal with online attacks?

There is still much work to be done to identify the perpetrators, the hackers, the agents, then to to call them out, and to put a stop to it all

The claims that the Russians hacked the DNC and maybe the Republicans, as well, and that journalists were being harassed online, was not overplayed this fall, it was actually underplayed. At the time this angered me as most journalists would not talk about it at the time, or downplayed it – and few publishers would talk about the DDoS attacks they were dealing with.

This site, and most especially TNM’s sister site (now shuttered), dealt with attacks during the late summer into the fall. They were more annoying than anything else as they were predictable and easily dealt with. TNM’s traffic is minuscule compared to that of most news sites, and the big guys already have safeguards in place so you rarely heard of The Washington Post’s website crashing, though there were a few hiccups seen occasionally.

After the election, for whatever reason, journalists became more willing to open up about what they had been experiencing, and continued to experience.

TeenVogue writer Lauren Duca has dealt with trolls, bots and the like, and just last week was getting harassed by maybe the most hated man in America, rabid Donald Trump supporter Martin Shkreli. Thanks to being as much a jerk online as he was as the head of Retrophin, Shkreli had his Twitter account suspended, which only made the online harassment become amplified for Duca.

Some journalists are now arguing that it is time to move on, to forget about the Russian hacking story, to forgive and forget all about the trolling and online threats. The problem is that I don’t see that things have changed much.

This afternoon the website for the Office of Government Ethics went down, most are assuming it has been caused by a DDoS attack, though at this time the cause is unknown. There is good reason to be suspicious after its head was threatened by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

The director, Walter Shaub Jr., posted this to the site just before it went down concerning what is expected of those working for the executive branch of the US government:

“Executive branch employees are subject to an important set of ethics rules contained in the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch . These rules serve to guard the federal service against ethical problems that could undermine public confidence in the integrity of the government’s operations. They regulate such things as conflicts of interest, misuse of position, impartiality, and gifts.”

The OGE site is back up – sluggish, but back up this afternoon.


My point is that nothing has changed, it is too early to say that we should forget what has happened because it is still going on. Can we at least wait until our websites are back online?

There is a lot of work to be done, both journalists and the intelligence community will have to be the ones to do it. We can’t just move on because if we do we will lose whatever hope we have that we won’t have to deal with cyber attacks generated both from domestic and foreign actors, that we won’t have to abandon social media just because we work in the publishing industry, that we can return to both a civil society and a democratic form of government.

If we move on, we have lost everything.

Finally, let me add that this is not a journalism issue. TNM is not a journalism site, it covers digital publishing. This issue involves business, threats to our business. If we don’t see it this way we really will be in trouble because we will be arguing about semantics and online etiquette. That doesn’t feel as serious as the discussion and the actions need to be. Without a truly free press than we will be back to publishing only when we secure government approval, under a new Stamp Act.

Comments are closed.