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Hill Staffers Urged to Avoid Drudge, “Potential Viruses”

Earlier this week, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, the body’s official gatekeeper, levied a warning to staffers to avoid such sites as Matt Drudge’s DrudgeReport.com and several other online destinations, such as WhitePages.com. The rationale? Apparently the Senate Help Desk has been dealing with a large number of viruses, and these sites were possible sources of computer problems. In a statement reported on FoxNews.com, a representative of the Environment and Public Works Committee indicated that the request to avoid the sites originated from a non-partisan systems administrator.

Drudge came back at the report with some statistics, indicating that there was no problem on his end when it came to delivering links and headlines to staffers coming from Congressional and other D.C. Internet servers. As noted in a post yesterday morning on the Drudge Report, there were no errors reported even though his volume of traffic remained high. According to the post, the site served 29 million pageviews on Monday, and it was seen 149,967 times since the beginning of the month from users at Senate.gov, and 244,347 times over the same time from house.gov.

Seems harmless, right? Of course not – this is Washington. Fox quoted the Media Research Center’s Vice President of research and publication, Brent Baker, who wondered why a conservative news site was used as the example instead of one of its liberal counterparts. Even Drudge thought the timing was convenient for the request to steer clear was “just as the healthcare drama in the capitol reaches a grand finale.”

Not to be missed here is the lede-battle between The Huffington Post and Fox News as both media outlets document the story. I’ll just post them both below and let you guess which one belongs to which organziation:

In the very body sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, an e-mail is circulating warning U.S. Senate staffers not to view one of the most popular news sites on the Web, claiming it could spread computer viruses.

A Senate committee has taken steps to black list the Drudge Report on Capitol Hill computers over concerns that the site may be “responsible for the many viruses popping up” recently.

(Just so there’s no confusion, the first is Fox, the latter is HuffPo).

So, legitimate threat or convenient timing by the Senate staff?

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Dave Levy spends most of his day working on Edelman’s Digital Public Affairs team in Washington, DC. A media researcher on the side and a self-proclaimed geek, he blogs often about how traditional media adapts – or tries to adapt – to the growing social media world at State of the Fourth Estate. You can follow Dave on Twitter for various updates about everything from sports from his previous home in Boston to eccentric and obscure pop culture references.