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Hillary Clinton endorsed a startup — and then it fell victim to a cyber attack

Introducing Verrit, a new effort to organize Clinton supporters and arm them in social media fights.

Hillary Clinton onstage for an interview at Code 2017 Asa Mathat

Hillary Clinton is allegedly at the center of another cyber attack — except this time it involves a startup that’s trying to become something of a social network for her political supporters.

The saga began Sunday night when Clinton — to the apparent surprise of her followers — took to Twitter to offer her personal endorsement of a new, relatively unknown website called Verrit.

In the words of its creator, Peter Daou, Verrit is his attempt to create an online hub for Clinton backers so that they can find easy-to-share facts, stats and other “information you can take out to social media when you’re having debates on key issues people are discussing,” he said in an interview.

The “65.8 million” referenced in Clinton’s tweet refers to her own vote total from the 2016 presidential election. Daou repeatedly declined to say if he had contacted the former secretary of state in a bid to secure her public show of support, and Clinton’s political organization — Onward Together — did not respond to emails seeking comment about its involvement in the effort. Already, the group has funded a number of organizations that are fighting against President Donald Trump.

Soon after Clinton’s tweet, though, Verrit stopped loading for web users — the result of a “pretty significant and sophisticated” cyber attack, Daou told Recode. He declined to share the name of his hosting company, and did not yet know who exactly was behind the incident. But he said the traffic driven by Clinton’s endorsement — which generated more than 10,000 new Twitter followers for Verrit — isn’t responsible for the outage.

Once it’s back online, Daou nonetheless has big ideas for Verrit. A former aide to Clinton’s 2008 campaign who later ran ShareBlue, a left-leaning news site that defended her candidacy, he wants Verrit to become a “platform or place in the media” for Clinton backers to “call home and feel like they’re not facing attacks and smears and harassment and false narratives and negative talking points.”

Eventually, Daou hopes the site will have a podcast, some analysis, a hub on YouTube and other elements, as he aims to help Clinton backers fight the “bullying from the radical right and fringe left.” Asked about funders, Daou said he’s “just beginning the process, actually.”

“This is a brand-new organic project,” he continued. “We launched this in June, and we’re just beginning the process of how we’re going to expand and grow the company and finance it.”

It just isn’t loading on Sunday night, at least for now.

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