Hackers take down ring of key progressive blogs
Nick Cargo and Mike Sheehan
Published: Wednesday January 7, 2009

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Several major blogs were in jeopardy after a Tuesday hack of their software provider had its owner ready to throw in the towel.

According to SoapBlox owner Paul Preston, the attack on its servers--which prompted SoapBlox's Internet service provider to shut it down--was connected to a shadowy group called Astalavista, which claimed credit for the attack in the site's altered source code.

"Consider this the 'We're Out of Business' post," Preston wrote on Wednesday morning. "Most of the servers have been taken off line because they were being used to hack and exploit other websites. The hackers install this crap on servers after they get in. SoapBlox's ISP then takes the servers off line... It was a good ride, but it's over."

The affected blogs include American Liberalism Project, BeThink, Blue Hampshire, Blue Jersey, Blue Mass. Group, Minnesota Progressive Project, My Left Wing, Never In Our Names, Pam's House Blend, RadicalRuss, Swing State Project and West Michigan Rising and other mostly state-focused political blogs of note.

"I wish I could see a bright side to this," blogger Pam Spaulding, founder, editor and publisher of Pam's House Blend, told PageOneQ. "It's incredible that years of hard work can be destroyed in a flash, but we're in the digital age and there are people motivated to silence voices through malicious acts. I'm hopeful that data will be recovered..."

The blogs are back online for the time being, but discussion has continued about whether to continue using SoapBlox as a blog framework. The platform, singlehandedly written and maintained by Paul Preston, hosts the content of 90% of the progressive 50-State Blog Network, allowing for a large number of such blogs to be taken down with one server exploit.

"These are all community sites, and the progressive blogosphere is a community," said Minnesota Progressive Project's Joe Bodell in a Wednesday DailyKos diary. "If we cannot come together to keep these communities alive, the larger community won't be worth much, and I say that as more than just a blogger whose site got hosed."

"I don't know if anyone has yet had time to call the FBI. If not, it needs to happen soon," commented Sam Smith of the progressive group blog Scholars and Rogues. "Never mind the nature of the views being expressed on these sites - this attack was a naked broadside aimed at the very infrastructure of public speech and discourse in America, just as surely as if vandals had destroyed the presses used by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine back in the 1700s. As long as the United States professes to be in the free speech business, actions like these cannot be allowed to stand."