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from the Wall Street Journal
CNN's Coverage of China is Raising Hackles
April 19, 2008; Page A5
HONG KONG -- A growing movement to protest CNN's coverage of China has in recent weeks generated its own Web site, theme song, and now, it seems, army of hackers.
|Commentator Jack Cafferty has elicited anger from Chinese viewers of CNN.|
Friday, the Time Warner Inc.-owned Cable News Network Web site experienced problems that prevented users from accessing the site -- what appeared to be a "denial of service" attack instigated by hackers. Users trying to access CNN.com were unable to do so at least temporarily in certain Asian markets, including Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and mainland China.
CNN said in a statement that it "took preventative measures to filter traffic in response to attempts to disrupt our Web site." It added that a small number of users in Asia were affected, and it was working to restore access quickly.
No one has taken credit for Friday's outage, but Chinese hackers on Internet bulletin boards have called for attacks on the site in recent days.
Over the past month, the channel has become the target of scorn and anger from many Chinese viewers -- most recently, over comments made by its on-air commentator Jack Cafferty. While talking about China on an April 9 broadcast, Mr. Cafferty said, "I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years."
Mr. Cafferty "used the microphone in his hands to slander China and the Chinese people [and] seriously violated professional ethics of journalism and human conscience," said China's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, Tuesday. CNN issued a statement saying Mr. Cafferty's comments represented his "strongly held" opinion of the Chinese government, not the Chinese people. But the clarification didn't appear to placate its critics in China.
CNN first ran afoul of Chinese bloggers in late March who objected to the way it cropped photos of the recent unrest in Tibet to show a police van, but not people nearby attacking the vehicle with stones. A Beijing Internet entrepreneur, Rao Jin, soon started a Web site called anti-cnn.com to document mistakes on CNN and other foreign media. The site receives as many as five million clicks a day, he says.
His effort spawned the increasingly popular slogan "don't be too CNN," which in China apparently now means "don't be too biased." Since then, two songs lampooning CNN, complete with video, have become popular on China's Internet. Both are called "Don't Be Too CNN."
"Why do you rack your brains in trying to turn black into white? Don't be too CNN," sings an online singer named Murong Xuan in one of the songs.
Other international media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, have come under criticism in China for their coverage of the unrest in Tibet. But CNN, whose staff have received threats, appears to have become a proxy for what many Chinese see as Western media bias that villainizes China just as the country prepares to make a global splash through its hosting of the summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
CNN International is one of about 30 foreign TV channels allowed limited distribution in China, though that distribution is largely confined to high-end hotels and special compounds. Analysts at the Hong Kong-based Media Partners Asia estimate the CNN International channel takes in more than $100 million in advertising revenue around all of Asia each year.
Online forums for Chinese hackers Friday were filled with discussion over whether -- and when -- they should launch an attack on CNN's Web site. On the blogspot home page of a hacker calling himself Laozi, hackers said that a "flame of revenge" attack on CNN's Web site would take about three hours to complete. They didn't specify how an attack would be accomplished.
Some also said that fears of retribution had caused them to cancel plans for an attack originally scheduled for Saturday. "I love my nation very much! But I love my parents and family more," wrote one person using the name Yan Zhao Shen Lang.
Scott Henderson, the Kansas-based author of "Dark Visitor," a book on Chinese hackers, says he first noticed discussion of a CNN attack on hackbase.com, one of the largest Chinese hacker Web sites, on Wednesday. "They were calling for everyone to get together to coordinate using large numbers of compromised computers to attack CNN," he says.
Since 1998, he says, a group of Chinese hackers has orchestrated similar attacks on computers belonging to the governments of Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan and the U.S. "This made them nationalist heroes and developed a culture of activism online," he says.