The Internet Archive Says It Finds No Evidence To Support Joy Reid’s Hacking Claims (UPDATE)
On Monday, Mediaite’s Caleb Ecarma reported on a number of old blog posts purported to be authored by MSNBC’s Joy Reid that showed her mocking gay people and defending homophobia. In response to these posts, which were posted on Twitter in recent days, Reid provided Mediaite with the following statement:
“In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.
I began working with a cyber-security expert who first identified the unauthorized activity, and we notified federal law enforcement officials of the breach. The manipulated material seems to be part of an effort to taint my character with false information by distorting a blog that ended a decade ago.
Now that the site has been compromised I can state unequivocally that it does not represent the original entries. I hope that whoever corrupted the site recognizes the pain they have caused, not just to me, but to my family and communities that I care deeply about: LGBTQ, immigrants, people of color and other marginalized groups.”
Well, it appears that a whole bunch of cold water has been tossed on Reid’s claim that posts were “manipulated” by an unknown party.
In a blog post, The Internet Archive noted that this past December, Reid’s attorneys had contacted them to ask that archives of her now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, be taken down as they claimed “fraudulent” posts had been inserted into the “legitimate content.” This would appear to have occurred after a round of old posts apparently trying to out former Florida Governor Charlie Crist as gay had surfaced. Reid would later apologize for the homophobic posts, acknowledging that they were “insensitive” and “tone-deaf.”
The blog post then stated that there was no evidence to support Reid’s claim that hacking was involved on her old site.
“When we reviewed the archives, we found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions. At least some of the examples of allegedly fraudulent posts provided to us had been archived at different dates and by different entities.”
The Internet Archive further noted that the information provided to it by Reid’s lawyers wasn’t sufficient to “verify claims of manipulation.” Furthermore, it was pointed out that they declined to take down the archives of the site because of Reid’s status as a well-known journalist. They then highlighted this:
“At some point after our correspondence, a robots.txt exclusion request specific to the Wayback Machine was placed on the live blog. That request was automatically recognized and processed by the Wayback Machine and the blog archives were excluded, unbeknownst to us (the process is fully automated). The robots.txt exclusion from the web archive remains automatically in effect due to the presence of request on the live blog. Also, the blog URL which previously pointed to an msnbc.com page now points to a generic parked page.”
So the Wayback Machine is unable to access Reid’s old blog because someone placed a robots.txt exclusion on the site. That is…interesting.
Is Reid lying? Are her claims of hacking valid? We reached out to MSNBC for comment and will update this post as soon as we hear back.
UPDATE 9:10 PM ET: The independent security consultant working with Reid, Jonathan Nichols, released the following statement in response to the issue with Reid’s blog:
Five months ago, we found evidence Joy Reid’s now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, was breached after a review of suspicious activity.
We discovered that login information used to access the blog was available on the Dark Web and that fraudulent entries – featuring offensive statements – were entered with suspicious formatting and time stamps. The posts included hate speech targeting marginalized communities and Ms. Reid has been explicit in condemning them.
Some of the posts in question were made while Ms. Reid was on the radio hosting her show. Text and visual styling was inconsistent with her original entries.
In December, shortly after the review, Ms. Reid’s attorney wrote to archive.org and Blogger.com to advise them that the blog had been compromised, and that the pages appearing in the Wayback Machine archive included fraudulent posts.
The letters detail the evidence that many of the blog posts were made up, including the times posted (times when Ms. Reid hosted her radio show), unusual structure and anomalies within the posts and ghosting around images.
We also asked Blogger.com for forensic data such as time stamps, IP addresses, and User-Agent data which would help us to learn more about the posts and where the fraudulent poster might be located. Blogger.com told us the data was
At no time has Ms. Reid claimed that the Wayback Machine was hacked, though early in our investigation, we were made aware of a breach at archive.org which may have correlated with the fraudulent blog posts we observed on their website. We simply wanted to ascertain whether that breach was related to the compromising of Ms. Reid’s blog.
Once our team determined that the two intrusions were unrelated, we merely attempted to have the fraudulent posts removed from archive.org. They refused this request.
However, we have significant evidence indicating that not only was Ms. Reid’s old blog compromised, some of the recently circulated posts were not even on the site at any time, suggesting that these instances may be the result of screenshot manipulation with the intent to tarnish Ms. Reid’s character. Oddly, there were no responses in the comments section of the entries, despite the inflammatory nature of the posts. If those posts were real, they would have undoubtedly elicited responses from Ms. Reid’s base. There was also no contemporaneous verification or memory from Ms. Reid’s peers or individuals she regularly debated online.
As a result we are continuing our own investigation and cooperating with federal law enforcement in their attempt to identify the source of this activity.