DDoS attacks: A menace to the people’s right to know

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THE NEW WAVE of cyberattacks against media outfits Vera Files, Rappler, and ABS-CBN seems to be a preview of heightened attacks against journalists as the 2022 national elections near.

As part of the media community that continues to weather distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, we in Altermidya Network are concerned of the implications of these rising cases on the Filipino citizens’ right to essential information.

Alternative media outfits have experienced DDoS attacks since 2018, the most recent one traced to an IP address leased to the Philippine Army. The latest cyberattacks reported was just last month against the news site of our fellow alternative media outfit, Pinoy Weekly.

DDoS attacks are considered a violation of media freedom and the people’s right to know. They prevent information from being distributed to the public, which is tantamount to direct censorship.

According to a UNESCO study, DDoS attacks around the world usually happen to independent media and the political opposition during important events such as elections. They have become typical tactics to intimidate media practitioners and limit freedom of expression in times when reliable and accurate information is most needed.

Cyberattacks have the potential to shut down independent news sites during the 2022 election period, and could be used to deprive the public of news on election-related issues like massive fraud, violence, and other anomalies.

What is at stake are not only the digital assets of media institutions but the public’s right to the truth. At a time when fake news and disinformation have become so widespread and blatant to advance political interests, the need for genuine news reporting and fact-checking is crucial.

If we add the unrelenting physical attacks against media practitioners to the equation, the recent events show how determined perpetrators are in stopping journalists from discharging their obligation of truth-telling.

We call on concerned government agencies particularly the Department of Information and Communications Technology to immediately investigate these cyberattacks on the media, and to make concrete steps in ensuring accountability from the perpetrators.

At this crucial moment, we call on the Philippine media community and the public to resist all efforts at sowing disinformation and in silencing institutions that provide the people with accurate information and analysis amid this dark era.

Together, we reiterate our call to #DefendPressFreedom and assert the people’s right to know.

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