Breitbart News, a site heralded as the digital mastermind behind the rise of the alt-right, complained to the FBI of what it thought was a cyberattack on its servers in January 2016, only to discover that the “malicious” traffic was the result of a malfunctioning ad network, according to documents published by the law enforcement agency Thursday.
The heavily redacted records, shared on the FBI’s Freedom of Information Act Library, show that an individual from Breitbart contacted the agency’s Los Angeles bureau to request that it investigate an apparent Distributed Denial of Service (DDos) attack on the right-wing news network. Such attacks target sites with fake traffic intended to overwhelm their web servers.
“Is this something we can possibly collaborate on?” emailed the Breitbart representative, whose name was redacted, on January 19, 2016.
Over the following two days, Breitbart shared IP addresses “which were actively sending malicious traffic” to its servers, according to the records. It’s difficult to tell much more from the attached email exchanges, other than the eventual involvement of FBI employees in Washington. By January 21, however, the issue seemed to resolve itself.
“After further investigation,” the FBI wrote in its report, “[REDACTED] determined a large portion of that traffic was due to a malfunctioning ad network.”
Advertising is the bane of many digital media companies. Some have more trouble with it than others.
I’ve reached out to a Breitbart spokesman for additional explanations of the exchange and will update this post with any response.