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French Version

Operation ‘anti-freedom of expression’ with attacks on Al Jazeera’s website

The cyber war is now in full swing, with attacks on Al Jazeera’s website taking center-stage.

It all started on the first week of the war, a couple of days into America’s invasion of Iraq, when Iraqi forces captured American prisoners of war (POWs) and Al Jazeera aired video footage of these POWs, and put their photos on its website.

Amidst the control exercized by American authorities on its national media, the only source for these photos was Al Jazeera to which millions of American visitors flocked within a 48 hour period, between 22 and 23 March.

Apparently, this made Al Jazeera the Internet’s top search query for those two days. A report by Lycos said that the word ‘Jazeera’ edged out ‘Oscars,’ ‘war in Iraq’ and even the usual top searched word: “sex.”

So, instant fame and massive traffic was achieved by Al Jazeera’s website. With it, though, came many hackers whose sole aim was to de-face the site, and halt this free flow of information to the ‘hungry’ visitors.

Under the questionable name of ‘Freedom Cyber Force Militia’ a series of attacks on Al Jazeera’s site occurred throughout that week, and possibly ongoing till this moment. These attackers removed the images of the POWs, and other ‘undesirable’ images, and replacing them with the American Flag! Visitors to the site were quite surprised to see all these flags with messages like ‘Let Freedom Ring’, and ‘God bless our forces’ and so on.

Apart from that, their have been a number of Denial of Service attacks reported, aiming to flood the site with requests and render it unfunctional. Some Al Jazeera officials are saying that the pressure from visitors was the reason the site malfunctioned and went off-line, downplaying the stories about ‘flood attacks’. Still, the attacks or massive traffic have been so intense that they’ve affected other websites hosted by DataPipe, the hosting company of Al Jazeera’s website in the United States, and they’ve decided to terminate Al Jazeera’s contract!

Nevertheless, the site continues to be accessible through other hosting sites. It’s quite ironic that Americans who are always ‘concerned’ about cyber-attacks actually utilized digital warfare to attack Al Jazeera’s website.

Had it been an American site that was attacked, the world press would have called it cyber-terror but, as you would expect, they didn’t. This attack, by definition, is a form of cyber-terror, as it sought to suppress freedom of expression through an Arabic website. Who’s the enemy of freedom now?

That’s why Al Jazeera, Abu Dhabi TV and other stations who are being watched by Americans and Europeans are so important to somewhat balance-out the bias; ensuring that the Arab point of view goes global.

Al Jazeera’s website is central to such efforts, and this whole media circus now surrounding Al Jazeera’s coverage and it’s website’s exclusive images is good news when it comes to putting Arabs on the global media map. It’s also a proof that, in this day and age of the Internet, nothing can be hidden, covered up or censored.

Zeid Naseer
The Star

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