Supporting WikiLeaks, Anonymous Takes Down Major Sites in 'Operation: Payback'
A spokesperson for Anonymous, who goes by the name Coldblood, has told the BBC that Operation: Payback is not over yet. "It's still going strong," he said, "more people are joining, more and more people are downloading the voluntary botnet tool." Coldblood, Anonymous and its supporters are all painting themselves as the protectors of free speech in the conflict over WikiLeaks.
Free speech on the Internet is always a contentious topic. Many people advocate for the Web to be a bastion of unfiltered and unregulated content. Companies and governments do seek to exert some control over the Internet for various reasons -- sometimes for good (e.g., cracking down on child pornography) and sometimes not (we're looking at you, China). Social networks have, more or less, been a haven for free speech advocates, who have used tools like Twitter and Facebook to communicate in countries with oppressive regimes. But, in the case of WikiLeaks, many have been put in a difficult position. Sites like Twitter and Facebook take the idea of free and open communication very seriously, but they're also likely facing pressure from the U.S. government (as PayPal was) -- and that's perhaps why Anonymous's Facebook and Twitter accounts were recently suspended.
Assange and WikiLeaks have, so far, remained quiet on the activities of Anonymous, which has also targeted a Swiss bank that put a freeze on Assange's defense fund, and the site of the Swedish prosecutor representing the two women who have accused Assange of sexual assault. Assange may not want to alienate any allies he may have left, and it would be unfair to blame him for actions taken on his behalf by a group of Internet miscreants. Still, if he wants to ensure that he wins the PR war against the governments of the world, he'd do well to distance himself from the attacks.
Anonymous has posted a video (below) explaining its actions and motives to the media and the public.