A deep cleaning and five days of investigations have gone in under the engine at SPN. For now, it’s back up and running, with additional security. The attacks began on December 30, 2020, taking down the site on December 31. On January 3rd it was tentative resurrected, and after deleting or fixing or 4,000 corrupted files as of January 4, 2021, it’s more or less stable. More money, more time, more teams involved. All, for mostly my volunteer effort.
For me, this raises some important concerns and questions that I can only hope others also share:
- How do we get information? From a friend of a friend of a friend on social media? Through comedians? Through memes? Or, do you read an article entirely and fact check it before you click that share button? (My stats on SPN’s FB page show that only 10% of facebook users actually click through.)
- Who has the will and the means to destroy factual information and historical record? Should they have that right? Or, does the public have the right to know about criminal trials and convictions?
- How important is media to you? to your community? to preserving a record?
- And, what will you do to protect it (provided you care, of course)?
My files are backed up, but as far as I know, no one has gone down certain community rabbit holes deeper than SPN. I’m no longer providing that depth of coverage … but trust me when I say there are many more local issues that SHOULD be covered and do not see the light of day.
I do take certain precautions with my “power” as the publisher. For instance, I will only publish from court documents when mentioning criminality (in part to hedge these ridiculous defamation suits that periodically get lobbed my way). Politicians get their full name in print, mostly because they MUST be accountable to their constituents. Democracy and the media are necessary mutally-sustaining companions. For the most part, when it comes to the general public (except when congratulations or celebrations are in order), I obscure staff names with r.andom pun.tuation so that information can not be easily googled. Names do appear on SPN as they do in print, but given the permanent and searchable nature of the Internet, it is something that comes with much consideration.
For those who are interested in obscuring a historic record of fact (especially criminal fact, which was the source of half of the defamation cases laid against me), it’s easy to go after the “little operator”; it’s no secret that independents media sources are rapidly dying, that advertising dollars (on which media depends for sustinance) are being swooped up by the likes of Facebook and Google. Without a sustaining income, an IT guru, and a legal team, and just enough tech savvy to get by, SPN is an easy target. I stay on for now because I truly believe that the avenue to hold politicians accountable must continue to exist (even though I no longer have the time to cover it!). So, I keep on funding the platform and the software, and I keep volunteering a significant portion of my time, mostly posting on the pandemic and a few passionate stories.
Do you care enough to protect independent media? And, news media in general? And, if you’re interested in life outside of your own echo-chamber, do you care enough about media to invite alternative mediums with alternative perspectives? Clearly, SPN has its own angle. The local print paper has its own. A few magazines that have come and gone also have their own perspectives. Together, all of these create a tapestry that (I believe) is critical to understanding the diversity and complexity of any community.
These are the things that occupy my very busy brain. And given what has happened to the notion of “evidence” and “fact” currently loosing all meaning with our southern neighbour, I think it’s something that perhaps more of us should be thinking about.
If you believe that media is an important aspect of democracy, if you are interested in supporting media, act accordingly, let your voice be heard. Volunteer to write a column for SPN. If you run a business, take out an ad in either this publication or the town’s print paper. Take over SPN as the publisher (you get 80% of whatever you earn through advertising, let’s talk!). Start your own press. Publish a blog or a vlog and commit to evidence-based documentation of events. And when SPN or any local media provider comes under attack, be it from a hacker or an ill-informed armchair critic, speak up. The resounding silence is as painful as the attacks themselves.
With every new attack, I have to ask myself, “Do I have it in me to continue this fight, or should I just pack it in now?” This time, I still had it in me. Next time, who knows.
Democracy matters. And, that means diverse and varied media platforms with a range of views and perspectives.
PS, I strongly recommend you save your favourite articles on SPN, because attacks have been happening for years now, and there will come a time where I will no longer bothering with resuscitation efforts. Either the attackers run out of money to pay for hackers, or I run out of steam. And when that happens, the permanent record currently contained on these pages is at risk of disappearing.