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Hackers go after one of SA's largest history websites

25 July 2018 - 07:00 By Nivashni Nair
South African History Online founder Omar Badsha says although the site gets a lot of hate mail the hack was a random act.
South African History Online founder Omar Badsha says although the site gets a lot of hate mail the hack was a random act.
Image: 123RF / Glebstock

Hack and hate mail won't keep South Africa's largest history website down. 

South African History Online‚ a digital archive that was around even before online encyclopaedia Wikipedia‚ was hacked last Thursday.

South African documentary photographer‚ political and cultural activist‚ and founder of South African History Online‚ Omar Badsha‚ on Monday told TimesLIVE that the site simply disappeared.

"It wasn't online. We checked with our colleagues and service providers and were informed that the site was hacked‚" he said.

While the site receives "a lot of hate mail"‚ Badsha believes the hack was a random act.

"We normally get a lot of hate mail because people don’t agree with some of the things that are posted. But we have had this before and the last time we were hacked‚ we found out that it came from somewhere in Eastern Europe."

"However‚ we are investigating the most recent hack‚" he said.

It took about two days for the website to be restored.

The site has close to 40‚000 documents‚ about 7‚000 biographies‚ and an archive containing tens of thousands of letters‚ statutes‚ photos‚ and speeches.

Between 2012 and 2017 the site registered over 50-million page views‚ and in 2016 and last year‚ the site was used by 4.5-million people globally. Those people viewed over ten million pages.

Badsha started the website in 2001 to address the bias in South African history and the way it was presented in textbooks and academic institutions.

"The idea was to rewrite and popularise history because history was not a subject that many children were doing in school.

"We create a site that we call the people's history because it allows for people to access information on South African history but also contribute."

The National Heritage Council of South Africa (NHC) said national archives were an important resource for "a nation to reflect on when dealing with history‚ preserving heritage as well as mirroring the nation”.

"Now that we are positioning ourselves for the 4th Industrial Revolution‚ it is critical to preserve our historical archives and heritage in a digital form for its accessibility throughout the globe. The archives are valuable for research‚ publishing‚ films and education‚" said the council's spokesman Danny Goulkan.


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