They came after the website this morning, all of a sudden.
I toggled the wifi, switched signals and restarted my machine before I recognized it for what it was: a DDoS attack intended to overwhelm our server, crash our website, silence our voice.
It took me a year of operating our website to learn what a DDoS attack is: a coordinated swarm on a site from thousands of bot-driven devices at once, over and over and over. There’s more to it than that, but the goal is simple: Overwhelm the server, shut it down.
They happened a lot in 2014, our first year of business — just about every time we broke a piece of news. The attacks still coincide with big stories, these days exclusively the ones about white supremacists and what we used to call the alt-right, which has these days Balkanized into Boogaloo Bois, Proud Boys, MAGAS and Qanons.
It took me another two years to figure out how to stop the attacks, or at least render them ineffective. By 2017, all news websites with any mettle had DDoS protections in place. And now, halting a basic DDoS is just a matter of flipping a digital switch and asking your actual web visitors to check a box, which is what I did this morning.
The tactic is pretty ineffective, is what I’m saying, a nuisance on the order of a prank phone call or a recurring piece of emailed spam. And yet they persist, bless their hearts.
If the pattern recurs, sometime tomorrow I’ll get a notification from Google informing that our latest piece about white supremacists has been reported as “adult content,” affecting the programmatic ads served on the page. If I let these notices stand, they might cost us $10 a year. But I always appeal, and I always get the decision overturned.
Sometimes they call and leave shitty messages on our voicemail. Sometimes they write deplorable comments on our website under fake names and bogus email addresses. Sometimes they deface our newspaper boxes, but that is kind of old-school. A couple stalk our social media pages, ready to piss all over anything we post.
None of it does any good, from their perspective. But for me, feedback like this is invaluable. It lets me know we’re making all the best enemies, and that we’re still on the right track.