Today, a US Representative, a US federal judge, and a number of others were shot in Arizona. The representative is in a critical condition in hospital, the others are dead. A person has been arrested in relation to the shooting.
There was, as you may remember, a bit of a fuss made a while ago about a bizarre tweet by Sarah Palin, in relation to the healthcare reform in the US, containing the phrase "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Palin's political action committee also produced a map of the US with target symbols over various Congressional districts, and a list of Democratic party representatives corresponding to those districts, which can, at time of writing, be seen here. In addition, a site called takebackthe20.com was launched, with a similar map (the symbols looking a bit more sniper-rifle-y), and a separate page listing the representatives concerned. Gabrielle Giffords, the representative who was shot, featured on both lists.
I don't think that anyone is seriously claiming that Palin is responsible for the shootings, or even that it's terribly likely that the assassin was motivated by rhetoric from Palin and Giffords other opponents; however, it's clear, at least to me, that the maps, in particular, are in exceptionally poor taste; were in poor taste before the shooting and are pretty much horrific now.
The interesting thing is that they all may have briefly been removed. The Twitter posting was inaccessible to most for a period, as was the map in the Facebook posting. These are now accessible again. The takebackthe20 site remains inaccessible, and it is being claimed in the wonderful world of Twitter that it simply went down under load, and that it was not deliberately removed.
That may be half-true. I was keeping an eye on it as the story unfolded. At first, it was available, but periodically giving an nginx 500 error, which likely indicates that the underlying Ruby on Rails app was having capacity. Then it went into an interesting state where the front page, with the map with targets, was accessible, but the page listing the names of the representatives was replaced with a Ruby on Rails page missing error (a 404). This is interesting because, while a site may very well go down under load, it will not generally get into a state where part of it is available but other parts are giving a page missing error (as distinct from a 500 error or other error indicating failure to produce the page).
Currently, the site is unavailable for DNS reasons; the DNS servers that the domain is pointed at appear to have no record for it.
I'm reasonably convinced that, whatever about the Tweet and the other map, the takebackthe20 site _was_ modified to remove the offending page before going down entirely; this is not simply a capacity issue. I wonder, when it comes back, or if it comes back, will the page be restored?
UPDATE: The site is still running at IP address 18.104.22.168; it's just that there's no DNS record. You can see it by sending "Host: takebackthe20.com" in a request to that address, or changing your hosts file.