Could Anonymous 'kill' Facebook? Photo Credit: Stian Eikeland http://www.flickr.com/photos/stianeikeland/3696386615/sizes/m/in/photostream/
Hacktivist collective Anonymous, known for their politically motivated attacks on government websites and major corporations, has allegedly threatened to “kill Facebook” in a YouTube video – although not everyone is convinced that the threat is real or that Anonymous is even behind it.
Speaking through a voice modifier so as to disguise his or her identity, the speaker warned ominously, “Your medium of communication you all so dearly adore will be destroyed.” The alleged date of the social network’s doom is to be Guy Fawkes Day this November; Guy Fawkes, whose failed attempt to blow up the House of Lords is celebrated with Bonfire Night every November 5, is something of an icon for Anonymous: Member of the group often wear Guy Fawkes masks in public, inspired by the film V for Vendetta.
The video was posted on YouTube on July 16, but it’s only now that the mainstream media has gotten wind of it; so far, the video has attracted more than 1.5 million views. In it, the hacker accuses Facebook of selling its users’ information “to government agencies and giving clandestine access to information security firms so that they can spy on people” and generally abusing their privacy, all claims that the massive social networking site has vehemently denied.
Facebook is, evidently, girding its loins for a potential attack: “We take every one of those threats seriously,” Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan told CNBC Wednesday. “We spare no expense.”
Anonymous, which gained notoriety for its protests against the Church of Scientology, has been busy as of late, launching joint attacks with affiliate hacktivist group LulzSec on major corporations including Amazon, Paypal and NewsCorp, and government offices such as the US’s CIA and the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency. As recently as August 8, they claimed responsibility for hacking the Syrian Ministry of Defence and posting a message of solidarity to those protesting.
However, it seems that not all members of Anonymous were comfortable with their latest supposed target. A member of the group known as Speakeasy, spoke to Gawker to clear up what he called “a terrible misunderstanding”: There was an “Operation Facebook”, he said, but it was dedicated to raising awareness about the company’s privacy and data hoarding practices instead of causing social media Armageddon.
So, do we have anything to fear?
“Your threats to arrest us are meaningless to us as you cannot arrest an idea. [...] [T]here is nothing – absolutely nothing – you can possibly to do make us stop,” Anonymous allegedly told the FBI.
- The threat remains. Speakeasy told Gawker that “Operation Facebook” began in a chatroom and originally involved creating an alternative social network to the monolithic Facebook. But Gawker’s Adrian Chen noted that if there wasn’t a real plot to kill Facebook before, there may be one now: “Anonymous is driven as much by media attention as any internal hive mind. After the frenzy of news reports and blog posts, the old Operation Facebook room is filled with more people than ever. Only now they’re tossing around outlandish ideas for attacking Facebook and its users, instead of planning a ‘peaceful’ protest. Operation Facebook might be back—for real, this time.”
- Not Anonymous. Observers doubt whether the threat is really emanating from Anonymous, largely because the video lay dormant for so long, under the media’s radar, and because the group did not publicise it on its “official” Twitter feed or its blog, PCWorld reported. Moreover, the Twitter profile associated with the video appears to be inactive. There are other clues as well: Emil Protalinski writing in his blog on ZDNnet, pointed out, “while Guy Fawkes Day is a perfectly understandable choice, it’s very far away.” He felt this was out of character as, “[A]nonymous rarely gives more than a few days notice, if at all.” Parmy Olson at Forbes agreed, advising readers to “stay calm” : “Bear in mind that pretty much anyone can front a well-made YouTube video and think twice about whether this is all just a bit of fun for a few bored people on their summer break.”
- Is it even possible? “It also remains an open question whether the group could muster enough help to take down, or slow, a site that boasts 750 million users,” observed Doug Gross at CNN, highlighting Anonymous’s failed takeover of Amazon, a company that is “known to have massive amounts of server space — as does Facebook.”