Hot Topics: Denial-of-Service Attacks on News Websites in Autocracies


Most authoritarian countries censor the press. As a response, many opposition and independent news outlets have found refuge on the Internet. Despite the global character of the Internet, news outlets are vulnerable to censorship in cyberspace. This study investigates Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks on news websites in Venezuela and details how news reporting is related to DoS attacks in an attempt to censor content. For this empirical test, I monitored 19 Venezuelan news websites from November 2017 until June 2018 and continuously retrieved their content and status codes to infer DoS attacks. Statistical analyses show that news content correlates to DoS attacks. In the Venezuelan context, these news topics appear to be not only on protest and repression but also on opposition actors or other topics that question the legitimacy of the regime. By establishing these relationships, this study deepens our understanding of how modern technologies are used as censorship tools.

Political Science Research and Methods