From Hacktivists To Spammers: Is Anonymous Failing?

Just as most of the world is becoming aware that Anonymous exists, let alone is able to strike a blow against monoliths such as Visa and MasterCard whose businesses rely completely on the integrity of their computer security, the would-be revolutionaries seem to retreat from a strategy of meaningful offence to one of sophomoric annoyance.

After touting the beginning of the Infowar, Operation Payback, under the umbrella of Anonymous, seems to have reverted to the likes of Anonymous’ past antics which amount to little more than cyber-pantyraids.  Only days after the unjust arrest of Julian Assange, while Mr. Assange still sits in a jail facing nefarious and seemingly trumped-up charges, what seemed the best hope for a meaningful opposition has chosen a strategy that will only isolate the founder of WikiLeaks and turn public opinion against the most active support he had.

The reason for the proposed Infowar, or cyberwar, is serious.  Governments that have been charged by, and empowered by, the people they are to represent to protect their right to freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, have been acting as totalitarian regimes against those that would enlighten the rest of us and provide us with the information about what is being done in our names, with our tax dollars, to our men and women in service, against our best interest, and often in the sole interest of corporations and politicians seeking re-election.

Those in support of these principles were sitting on the moral high-ground.  Theirs was not a battle for new territory or resources.  There is no desire to take that which does not belong to them.   The battle is for their fundamental right of freedom to access and share information.

In the days after the incarceration of Julian Assange, and the denial of his bail, Anonymous issued two statements.  The first was a statement outlining it’s “Message, Intentions, and Potential Targets.”  The melodramatic messages from Anonymous are reposted here complete with spelling and grammatical errors.  Not that I’m perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but if this was my introduction to the world, as a warrior fighting with weapons of an intellectual nature, I may have spent a little more time on the edit.

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

– Abraham Lincoln

“He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Hello World. We are Anonymous. What you do or do not know about us is irrelevant. We have decided to write to you, the media, and all citizens of the free world at large to inform you of the message, our intentions, potential targets, and our ongoing peaceful campaign for freedom.

“True, This! —

Beneath the rule of men entirely great,

The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold

The arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! —

But taking sorcery from the master-hand

To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike

The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —

States can be saved without it!”

– The Cardinal

Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy by: Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The message is simple: Freedom of Speech. Anonymous is peacefully campaigning for Freedom of Speech everywhere in all forms. Freedom of Speech for: The Internet, for journalism and journalists, and citizens of the world at large. Regardless of what you think or have to say; Anonymous is campaigning for you.

The recent news of our campaigns has been, at best, misinformed. Anonymous is not always the same group of people. The Constitution of the United States is said to be a living document, because it can be edited, amended; changed at the will of the people to suit the peoples’ needs. In that same vein, Anonymous is a living idea. Anonymous is an idea that can be edited, updated, remanded, changed on a whim. We are living consciousness. We are not a terrorist organization as governments, demagogues, and the media would have you believe. At this time Anonymous is a consciousness focused on campaigning peacefully for Freedom of Speech. We ask the world to support us, not for our sake, but for your own. When governments control freedom they control you. The Internet is the last bastion of freedom in this evolving technical world. The Internet is capable of connecting us all. When we are connected we are strong. When we are strong we have power. When we have power we are able to do the impossible. This is why the government is moving on Wikileaks. This is what they fear. They fear our power when we unite. Do not forget this.

“…Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

– Monsignor, Boondock Saints

Anonymous’ intentions are very clear. We are not vigilantes, regardless of the sentiment of quoting Boondock Saints, we are people on a campaign for freedom. Anonymous’ intentions are to change the current way the governments of the world and the people view true Freedom of Speech and The Internet. Anonymous is willing, ready, and able to campaign for the freedom for all. We are campaigning right now as you read the news, watch the television, fight with your significant other, love your children, hate your neighbor, criticize the man or woman next to you. We are campaigning. The goal is simple: Win the right to keep the Internet free of any control from any entity, corporation, or government. We will do this until our, proverbial, dying breath. We do this not only for our selves, but for the world and its people at large.

“Truth is treason in the empire of lies.”

– Ron Paul

Pay attention citizens, governments, and the world. Anonymous’ peaceful campaign will focus on any organization, corporation, government, or entity until the Internet is truly free.
Anonymous is doing what many successful campaigns have done in the past; a sit-in. It may be hard to comprehend, but a digital sit-in is our most effective method to show that all of us deserve Freedom of Speech and a free Internet. Our methods may appear, on the outside, to be cruel to those the entities that we are campaigning against, but remember buy supporting censorship they are denying everyone a basic human right. Any person, corporation, government, or miscellaneous entity that stops supporting censorship and starts promoting Freedom of Speech and a free Internet will become our allies. Anonymous, at this time, wants to persuade our counterparts rather than hurt them. We are campaigning for freedom for everyone, even the opposing side.

Do not fear us. Anonymous’ campaign does not intend to harm the individual citizen, any organizations, any websites, or government, that supports true freedom of speech. Anonymous’ past is not our present. We are here for all of you; to campaign for all of you. Where others have made this promise and failed; we make this promise and aim to keep it for everyone.

Anything attributed, credited, or tagged to Anonymous is not always what we do. We arenot always the same consciousness on a yearly, monthly, or even hourly basis. Do not believe everything you hear or read on the news. Anonymous is often credited with actions that are not campaigned for by Anonymous. The true core of Anonymous is here to help the free world for now. Anonymous wishes to represent the truth and ask that you as a citizen, media organization, or government do the same.

(The ‘Question Mark’ turns out to be remarkably apropos)

This release was accompanied by word that those involved in Anonymous had successfully interrupted MasterCard and were pursuing an aggressive battle plan against those organizations that had assisted governments in their censorship of Wikieaks material, as well as those that had assisted governments in their direct attacks on the organization, and its director, by freezing their financial accounts.  As this information was beginning to make the newsreels, Anonymous issued yet another statement; a press release dated December 10. (once again, unedited or corrected)

Who is Anonymous

In their most recent public statement, WikiLeaks is the only group of people to identify Anonymous correctly. Anonymous is not a group, but rather an Internet gathering.

Both Anonymous and the media that  is covering it  are aware of the perceived dissent  between individuals  in  the  gathering.  This  does  not,  however,  mean  that  the  command  structure  of Anonymous is failing for a simple reason: Anonymous has a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives.

We do not believe that a similar movement exists in the world today and as such we have to learn by trial  and error.  We are now in the process of better communicating some core values to the individual atoms that comprise Anonymous – we also want to take this opportunity to communicate a message to the media, so that the average Internet Citizen can get to know who we are and what we represent.

Anonymous  is  not  a  group  of  hackers.  We  are  average  Interent  Citizens  ourselves  and  our motivation is a collective sense of being fed up with all the minor and major injustices we witness every day.

We do not want to steal your personal information or credit card numbers. We also do not seek to attack critical infrastructure of companies such as Mastercard, Visa, PayPal or Amazon. Our current goal is to raise awareness about WikiLeaks and the underhanded methods employed by the above companies to impair WikiLeaks’ ability to function.

What is Operation: Payback

As stated above, the point of Operation: Payback was never to target critical infrastructure of any of the companies or  organizations affected.  Rather  than doing that,  we focused on their  corporate websites,  which is  to say,  their  online “public  face”.  It  is  a symbolic  action –  as  blogger  and academic Evgeny Morozov put it, a legitimate expression of dissent.

The background to the attacks on PayPal and the calls to attack

Amazon, which was until recently WikiLeaks’ DNS provider, was one of the first companies to drop support for WikiLeaks. On December 9th, reported that were hosting the recently leaked diplomatic cables in e-book form. ( has since ceased selling the bundle of the diplomatic cables.)

After this piece of news circulated, parts of Anonymous on Twitter asked for to be targetted. The attack never occured. While it is indeed possible that Anonymous may not have been able to take down in a DDoS attack, this is not the only reason the attack never occured. After the attack was so advertised in the media,  we felt that it would affect people such as consumers in a negative way and make them feel threatened by Anonymous. Simply put, attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones, would be in bad taste.

The continuing attacks on PayPal are already tested and preferable: while not damaging their ability to process payments, they are successful in slowing their network down just enough for people to notice and thus, we achieve our goal of raising awareness.

In other words, these actions were not about really doing anything, but rather about gaining attention.  WikiLeaks is not in need of any PR. WikiLeaks is the focus of every corporate and independent news organization on the planet.  The only ones looking for attention seems to be Anonymous.  If they are going to take real action, they should take it.  If they are going to stand for something other than their own self-promotion, they should stand for it.  Self-aggrandizing press releases, littered with quotes to provide credibility for their excuses for lack of action, serve nothing but the stroking of their own egos.

After achieving what they hailed as success by affecting corporate websites without causing any inconvenience to the corporations customers who continue to line the pockets of the very corporations that aided in the governments actions, Anonymous called off any attack on Amazon, one of the first companies to dump WikiLeaks from it’s server, so as not to interfere with people’s holiday shopping.  This must be the most ineffectual revolution in history.

Only days after flexing an impressive muscle Anonymous has returned to the posture of beach-bum weightlifter making excuses for avoiding a fight while opting to sit in the sand and work on their tan.  Rather than build on the public support that was beginning they have chosen to change their tactic to now assault that very public with annoying false links and purposely mislabeled messages.

Bieber?  Seriously?  What could have been the beginning of a meaningful, and successful, popular revolt, has degraded into a college prank.  The hope that Anonymous had risen above it’s past debacles to become a mature and effective agent for change seems to have gone up in smoke.  But, perhaps not all is lost.

By their own admission, Anonymous is a fluid, leaderless, decentralized organization… a gathering.  Perhaps some grown-ups will get involved and add not only a backbone, but a strategic agenda centered in the principles Anonymous professes with a renewed commitment, and unwillingness to compromise.  Our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of the Internet is being assailed by governments and the corporations that fund them and Anonymous is concerned about inconveniencing holiday shoppers while they do everything possible to bring attention to themselves under the guise of ‘bringing awareness’ to the already most talked about issue in the media.  Give me a break.

Their most recent release shows either immense cowardice, complete lack of strategy, or infiltration of the organization by those that would render it harmless.  To switch their attacks from those that have committed the offense to the people that they say they are fighting for is nothing short of ludicrous.

We need Anonymous, or at least we need what Anonymous has the potential of being.  So, rather than simply share in my disappointment, join them.  Infuse their liquid membership with some heat.  Make it boil.  Don’t be satisfied with their tepid lack of any real action.  Put on your Guy Fawkes mask and take action based on the principles that have been used for window-dressing in this shameless campaign of self-promotion.

A true resistance to the powers that seek to oppress and deny us of our rights is required.  Julian Assange is sitting in jail.   The simple notoriety of a group that denies it’s ability to affect change and opts for sending out spam is not going to bring about his release.  Such actions may cause inconvenience for people, for all of us, but, if a cause is worthwhile, and this one certainly is, those who don’t support it are only protecting themselves and their own comfort and are therefore acting against the interests of all.

‘We didn’t want to fight because we didn’t want to interfere with holiday shopping.’  You’ve gotta be kidding me. ‘Our rights are not important enough to actually interfere with the profits of the very corporations that would deny us our rights.’  Un-fricken-believable.  Is this the best we can do?  Is this the nature of the new electronic revolutionaries.  ‘We’re not hackers, we’re just ordinary citizens.’  What, ordinary citizens only have the gumption to poke their enemy with a stick, claim they blackened it’s eye, and then run away to commence with annoying each other with spam?

Operation Payback is a bust.  It has defined itself as a joke.  Julian Assange still sits in jail.  Our governments are still doing everything they can, with the assistance of private corporations, to deny us our freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  Nothing has been accomplished except Anonymous has received more press.  A strange goal for a supposed decentralized group calling themselves Anonymous.  Someone need to take their tools and actually use them.  Send the children to their room and get some meaningful work done.

Perhaps, if Anonymous doesn’t get it’s act together and start focusing on the issues rather than itself, will provide us all with a renewed sense of purpose and hope for real change.  Perhaps if those with a real sense of resolve, rather than self-promotion, join with one, or join with both, they can help affect a purposeful agenda for meaningful action.


18 Responses to From Hacktivists To Spammers: Is Anonymous Failing?

  1. Anonymous December 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I’m part of this for the past week, and I agree with some of your points. But the grammatical errors argument is just lame. Not everyone speaks english natively, you know?

    But don’t think it will fall, lots of kids being trolls but also a great deal of discussion and good ideias. Keep spreading the word and we will be alot more than we are now.


    • Liam Fox December 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm

      I hope you’re right, I really do. I’m certainly not against Anonymous, just the change in tact. Continuing and escalating against corporations, rather than annoying and alienating potential supporters, seems a counterproductive strategy. My Guy Fawkes tattoo started to frown. lol Keep up the good work and please reconsider the resent choices and redirection. Point taken re spelling and grammar. Peace.

  2. Potatoes December 12, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    You completely fail to understand what’s happening here.
    The main reason Anonymous didn’t attack Amazon is because they didn’t have enough numbers to take down such a massive server. The reason they can’t build up numbers is because they are being denied every step of the way. The IRCs, the main means of communication, are being DDoSed and they are having to move constantly. Twitter and Facebook accounts, that would bring in more members, are being suspended. Even 4Chan, a good place to recruit, is banning threads about Operation Payback.
    They are really struggling and you come along accusing them of being children and trying to self-promote instead of getting out there and doing things. I’d like to see you do better.

    • Liam Fox December 12, 2010 at 4:44 pm

      You miss the point. Sometimes the strongest support comes in the form of criticism from fellow actors and activists. You don’t declare war, whine that your enemy is too strong, and then resort to a campaign of spamming your potential supporters. I want Anonymous to succeed. I don’t support their current strategy. Your complaint sounds as childish as the actions I challenge in my post. “I’d like to see you do better.” That’s a defense of weakness, not a statement of strength. That’s my point; don’t call yourselves warriors then whine like children. Don’t declare war and then complain it’s too difficult. If you’re going to fight, fight! Your excuses are different than the ones offered in the Anonymous posts also. Changing and adding excuses is equally weak. I’m not against Anonymous, quite the contrary. I’m just against losing.

      • Potatoes December 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm

        Anonymous is not changing excuses, that statement up there was posted by one person. Maybe he was trying to make Anonymous look good or something. I don’t know. I didn’t make or support it.
        Also what I said is not an excuse, its a fact. Numbers are dwindling and not much progress can be made without them.
        I’m not a warrior nor a child. I cannot fight on my own, it would do no good. This is the whole problem and it has been the entire time, that they lack numbers. I am also against losing. But my point in my last post is you can’t do better and neither can I, at least not by ourselves. There need to be more people.
        So throwing criticism at them like that without researching all the causes and having all the facts, is a bit harsh.
        Also that is not their ‘current strategy’ they are continuing as normal with what they were doing AND working on leakspin.

        • Liam Fox December 12, 2010 at 5:23 pm

          Leakspin is a counterproductive waste of time. If numbers are such a problem, why redirect the effort? Focus, strategy, commitment.

    • Ole Ole Olson December 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm

      4chan is banning threads about Operation Payback? Wow, so much for that being a free speech zone! When did they sell out?

      • Liam Fox December 12, 2010 at 9:29 pm

        There’s WikiLeaks, Anonymous and Assange stuff all over 4chan. If it’s being blocked, no one else seemed to get the memo.

  3. Emeth December 12, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    In the Meantime…. are there now about 2000 WikiLeaks Sites, Hundreds of Blogs, Thousands of twitter and facebook messages and that only in 10 days. And dont forget the mass distribution of the Insurance file.

    Besides almost every day Media attention all over the world for WikiLeaks.

    That is what is accomplished in just a few days.. and things are only starting. The Devil called WikiLeaks by world governments cannot be put back into its little box.

    It stays out cause We are Anonymous, We like our Freedom, we cannot be stopped.. The World should expect us !

  4. Montezuma December 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    You’ve missed quite a few points. Payback was a success by exposing Adriana Lucas’ ties to both Swed Military and USA-CIA (Avenge Assange), vote up Assange to positive numbers across dozens of websites (Avenge Assnage), remove the hacker The Jester from his stash of CP (Jester Payback), PayPal releases and re-establishes funds @ Wikileaks and follows-up in major ‘baww’ at the US-State Department (Payback), EveryDNS re-establishes relationship @ Wikileaks and, too, commits massive ‘baww’ at US-State Department (Payback).

    Additionally, as you said, Payback is a conglomerate of unstructured anonymous individuals coagulating on a hypertext window format. It’s rather difficult, and at that astounding, to get anything done in such a format. Regardless, Anonymous is an ever changing entity, and this so-called decline is only a re-organization into the next phase ‘real-life broadcast’ phase. It is clear you have no inside knowledge, be it first or second, of what is occurring right now as I type.

    12/15/2010. World: expect us.

  5. Montezuma December 12, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I forgot to mention Leakspin, that was dumb. Anyways, Leakspin too was an enormous success. Dozens of both cable and non-cable leaks were specifically filtered and identified within a short period of time, more shocking revelations than the main stream media (your self included) has reported on so far. Feel free to give them a look, or not and type a witty message explaining how you know something we don’t yet. It’s fine either way, both providing the sufficient lulz required.

    • Liam Fox December 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

      You claim a great deal of success on behalf of Anonymous for what WikiLeaks has accomplished. Claiming that ‘no one else knows the inside story’ and then claiming all the good that happens, doesn’t do much for credibility. You claim an open and fluid membership and then refer to some inner cabal that ‘really knows’. Which is it? Is it Operation: Payback and Operation: Leakspin that Anonymous has publicized and claimed or is it just sit back and claim all things good that are happening? Don’t forget, I’m a supporter, just a very critical one. I want success. Real success. Not just claims and innuendos.

  6. Morgaine December 13, 2010 at 8:53 am

    “facing nefarious and seemingly trumped-up charges”

    Yeah, of course.

    Women who claim to be raped are ALWAYS lying.

    And the “Left’s” gender problem continues.

    It’s QUITE possible that Assange is a rapist AND a free speech advocate. MANY men are and have been for centuries.

    I agree that he shouldn’t be in a British gaol with no bail and no charges, but neither do YOU or anyone else know that the Swedish charges are “nefarious” or “trumped-up”.

    Until men (especially white men) of the so-called Left and/or progressive movement recognise and give up their privileges (one of which is the “right” to sex), there will BE no progress.

    • Liam Fox December 13, 2010 at 9:39 am

      You are way off base, and your comments, in addition to being incredibly insulting, show a complete lack of knowledge regarding the situation. Both women have stated that there was no rape or forced sex. Both women have acknowledged that it was consensual. The charges were dropped and then reinstated when WikiLeaks was about to release another set of cables. Your ignorance and willingness to make sweeping indictments based on gender, race, and politics is disgusting. In your attempt to assault the character of others, you have only served to display your own bias, bigotry, and ignorance.

  7. Dean Procter December 13, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    As an observer I say that it is very early days for wikileaks. In the past weeks wikileaks has grown beyond any previous phenomenon in history. For that very reason it will be studied in schools and postulated by both students and professors for centuries as one of the defining moments of the dawn of the digital age.
    Julian Assanges and wikileaks’ name will outlive that of all our contemporary politicians, because none of them have shown themselves to be at all statesman-like, apart from possibly George Bush whose name will be increasingly reviled along with that other well-known tyrant from WW2.
    Nothing the US government can do will change that.
    The best way to defend your freedom of the press is to find a small town blog preferably in the republican states and write passionately and invoke the US Founders and appeal to the readers sense of being American.
    Ask everyone if they approve torture murder and the US government’s right to assassinate it’s own citizens. Bring up Jefferson, Adams, link to Collateral Damage and other video’s which show the truth of what America has become.Most Americans are patriotic and really don’t want these things done in their name and will readily help the cause.
    Leakspin is probably the wrong term for such a program.

    Leaktruth is what wikileaks is all about.

    Arguments over who can spell or the activities of any particular individual are irrelevant.
    Leak the truth. Engage. You’ll be surprised. I’ve neve met an American I didn’t like and who was not absolutely generous and gracious. It would appear I have been lucky. Let’s do our bit to help them regain their democracy. If there’s no hope for them then all is lost.

    As a supporter of free speech I say:
    Treat it as a school assignment and do your best. It all helps.
    The is hope. It is reinforced by actions.

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  9. Stignon December 14, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Anonymous is really really good at raising a lot of buzz and not getting much done, but I suppose raising awareness itself isn’t really that bad of a tactic. There’s a lot of apathetic people who don’t pay attention to the news and even more who don’t get Julian’s side of the story. It’s not at the fault of the anon, but just limits of how far people are willing to go. It’s a scale of what’s at stake balancing out with how much they’re willing to do about it.

    Now, when people’s way of life is at stake, then things’ll start changing. =)

  10. tracy December 16, 2010 at 7:25 am

    The internet is not secure and never will be, any freedom has a price to pay. There is always going to be those to exploit it.
    Possibly in the future the internet will become a redundant system and fall back in the use just like what happened to the NEWS GROUP. Wiki Leaks is just the start ,i am afraid.
    There was an article way back n the early 90’s i read about how the people and the government won’t be able to handle the power of information highway.

    Great Article thanks

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