Credits: The Guardian
The website, which includes resources for schools and details of forthcoming events, first fell prey to a cyber-attack at 8.45am on Monday. Its IT team worked through the night and the site came back online on Tuesday morning, but was attacked again.
Patrick Vernon, the editor of Black History Month magazine, said the initial attack was tracked to an IP address in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. He said: “Our website is the most popular in the UK on black history. I think it was done deliberately to ensure the content’s not available or accessible. I believe as a result of the Windrush scandal, there’s been a real interest in black history.
“People are now speaking about the black experience in a more public way than a few years ago, and whoever has done this wants to stop it. It’s very clear, I think. What we are experiencing now is part of a wider context of cyber-racism.”
The Black History Month website is online throughout the year, but interest peaks in October, when it contains listings of thousands of commemorative events and a print magazine produced to mark the occasion is uploaded on to the website.
Vernon said: “We thought initially it was because Black History Month was trending, because there has been a lot of interest on social media and in newspapers, including the Guardian. It is very clear that it has been targeted by hackers in the UK. We don’t know who it is, but it’s clear whoever they are picked on us yesterday deliberately [on the first day of Black History Month].”
Visitors to the website were greeted with the message: “The website is temporarily unable to service your request as it exceeded resource limit. Please try again later.”
Vernon said the attacks had not yet been reported to police because the priority was to work with the site’s IT team to get the website up and running again.
The former Hackney councillor, who has campaigned on behalf of the Windrush generation, said the incidents had to be seen in the light of a rise in racism being directed against Asian and black people online, which he said he had personal experience of.
Vernon also cited the fact that in the run-up to last year’s general election, the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, received almost half of all the abusive tweets sent to female MPs, according to research by Amnesty International.
This year’s Black History Month has attracted significant attention, not just because of the Windrush anniversary, but also because campaigners have complained that a number of councils have scrapped the name, describing it instead as a celebration of all ethnicities, leading to accusations of appropriation.