Netizens from Taiwan and China have been using distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against the Philippine government after a Taiwanese fisherman was shot dead by a Philippine Coast Guard vessel on Thursday last week. The Taiwanese government said that the incident occurred in waters north of the Philippines, where the exclusive economic zones of the Philippines and Taiwan overlap. However, the Philippine Coast Guard said that it fired at the Taiwanese fishing boat because it was fishing illegally in Philippine waters.
While both Taipei and Manila have agreed to investigate the incident, impatient Taiwanese netizens have accused their government of not taking any immediate action and being too soft on the issue.
On PTT — Taiwan’s largest online bulletin board system — netizens have initiated a DDoS attack, mobilizing individuals to interrupt the services of Philippine government Web sites. Anyone can add a special script on his or her Web site so that when others visit the site, the script automatically refreshes government Web sites in the Philippines and the resulting massive demand for refreshing Web pages causes the targeted sites’ servers to crash. For instance, Comelec.gov.ph, the Web page of the Philippine Commission on Elections, was interrupted on Saturday — two days before the general election on Monday — leaving Filipinos unable to check the locations of nearby precincts and polling stations.
Launched by Taiwanese netizens, this cyberattack was originally intended to redress diplomatic actions that the netizens believe the Taiwanese government has failed to take in a timely manner. However, the shooting has also triggered outrage among Chinese netizens on social networking platforms, such as Sina Weibo. Chinese netizens who consider Taiwan to be a part of China believe it is necessary to voice support for their brethren in Taiwan.
This is further fueled by long-simmering nationalist sentiment over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), which are contested by Taiwan, China and Japan, which calls them the Senkakus, as well as territorial conflicts in the South China Sea. As of Sunday evening, there have been more than 1.7 billion posts discussing the incident on Sina Weibo. Most of them echo Taiwanese netizens’ view that the Taiwanese government was not responsive or tough enough and called for harsh action to be taken against the Philippines. Chinese netizens helped find more government Web sites in the Philippines and advocated united efforts to attack them.
In liberal, democratic Taiwan, netizens are entitled to express their stance on the issue and exert pressure on their government to redress what they perceive to be its inadequate and cowardly diplomatic reaction. So what is truly interesting about this cybercampaign is the voluntary participation of Chinese netizens.
Just recently, Chinese netizens also manifested their collective power by sending both serious and absurd petitions to the White House’s “We the People” Web site. One of the petitions was appealing to reopen the investigation into the poisoning of a college student 18 years ago, a case that has recently resurfaced as a hot issue in China. Some Chinese netizens believe that justice was not served because they think the culprit is highly connected to the Chinese Communist Party and has thus eluded punishment. Since they feel that justice is unlikely to be served in China, they have bypassed their domestic system to try and garner foreign attention and intervention.