Emerging Tech

The Internet and IRL (In Real Life) -- have the lines blurred?

In the last couple of weeks, we have seen a gauntlet thrown down. #4chan group “Anonymous” has published a definitive attack on what is known as the Church of Scientology.

In the last couple of weeks, we have seen a gauntlet thrown down. #4chan group “Anonymous” has published a definitive attack on what is known as the Church of Scientology.

I’ll start here- What Scientology is or isn’t is not the point of this. A new way of bringing dissension to the table, is.

This may be one of the few stories on the IT News blog that is simply a condensation of everything I have been able to learn. Citations will follow.

Why is it newsworthy? Because I think that the group Anonymous has taken a few good lessons recently and learned how to take a protest to the people who may care. The people who may be vulnerable. And possibly demonstrate to business why the approach they have taken may have some merit.

The concept of “Anonymous” is simple. The collective “we” are literally Anonymous. Any person can be “we”. A supporter, a curious person, a committed individual. They’re all “we.” And the impact of the “viral” element is that someone that the originator doesn’t know may take up the banner and become part of “we.” Possibly even an intrinsic part.

Near as I can discover, the group that calls itself Anonymous began in the IRC space and defined worlds based in l33t. Their communication was nearly indecipherable if you didn’t misspell on their terms. The “attacks" that they made at the time were limited to the chan world. If you didn’t chan, you didn’t know or care.

Recently, a video of Tom Cruise came up on YouTube. It was 9.5 minutes of pure insanity that left me wondering if the 5150 law in California had been revoked or how this guy escaped it. Shortly after it hit the Netsphere, it was gone. The Church of Scientology called it a copyright infringement and invoked DMCA. YouTube called it a day. The video is still out there, but it gets difficult to find a site that still is willing to fight the CoS and publish. (hint… try gawker.com)

The thing that gives this any importance is that any business can be targeted, and potentially harmed, if this group gets their way. That is a bit scary when you consider the level of organization this group of “kids” has managed to reach in a very short time.

The other side of that coin is that Scientology has had a kick or two coming for some time and it is difficult for people who have been harmed by this cult to see what the problem is. There are many who have been waiting-- even for a long time -- for someone to please recognize that Scientology as a cult should be brought to task.

I have followed this like one might follow a bit of horrifying news -- avid interest combined with the sense that I am about to witness a train wreck. In some opinions, I am simply seeing a bunch of children in action, in others, we’re looking at a revolution.

As I see it, the paradigm may have shifted again. We clearly can see that determined people can reach a large audience quickly. We can also see that, while the initial message may not be refined, the final message may be. What I have learned in all this is that I do not want to tick these people off and that, to some extent, I hope they are successful. What I hope that everyone sees is that this approach signifies something new. Business may well ask itself, “How clean is my house?” The consequence of a bad answer could easily be targeted disruption.

This is not a discussion about Scientology, but most of the citations that I can gather about the issue are not complimentary of Scientology. I guess when you set out to destroy a group, regardless of how richly they deserve it, you just don’t say nice things. Regardless, I will avoid the famed wrath of the group by not citing them.

The Message to Scientology from Anonymous. (You Tube)

Web Vigilantes Attack Scientology Website (Times Online)

Hackers Hit Scientology with Online Attack (ABC News)

Anonymous plans to take their protest out of the Net and into the real world on Feb 10. They have organized a world wide peaceful protest against Scientology. They may well be successful.

Anonymous Plans to Protest Church of Scientology on 2/10 (Thought Blender)

And many, many more. Google it. The hits are astonishing.

In the past week, I have read literally thousands of pages. The thing that stands out to me is the maturity levels that have been reached. What started out as looking like a bunch of kids reacting against a specific group has become a real protest against that group. What started as an illegal action has become peaceful protest. These kids have garnered the attention of people who have been protesting Scientology for many years at great personal cost. This is the real result of the old “Telegraph” game where we tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on.

Businesses should be looking at what people acting independently can accomplish, and they need to consider how easy it is to be targeted by a watchdog group.

Do you think that Anonymous is acting totally outside the law, or are they simply employing technology in a manner that serves their purpose? If this is successful, what could be next?

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111 comments
seanferd
seanferd

Buzz Report gets religion "We're not saying that Scientology is scary and more than a little bit crazy...except how we're totally saying that."

Tig2
Tig2

There is already some video up from the Cleveland Leader from the Sydney and London protests. While each video is only a few minutes, what you see is people peacefully standing on sidewalks and being respectful of law enforcement. I will continue to watch as this unfolds. As of this minute- 1:42 p.m.- the West Coast rallies are due to begin in about 20 minutes. Of course, it is still too early to say what the impact will be. I see information on the Net that suggests that the next one will be on 15 March- 2 days after the anniversary of Hubbard's birth. Assuming that the momentum built continues, next month could get interesting. Link to the story in the Cleveland Leader: http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/4687 Edit- Capitalization error

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I posted this on the other current TR "Scientology" discussion. It has links to the only three U.S. stories I could find, as of 8:00 EST on Feb 10th. http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=252275&messageID=2425231 Looks to me that the U.S. basically ignored this, at least at this hour.

Tig2
Tig2

http://crave.cnet.com/8301-1_105-9869003-1.html http://www.knbc.com/news/15266280/detail.html http://glosslip.com/2008/02/10/feb-10-anonymous- protests-against-scientology-from-around-the-globe- pics-links-and-more/ http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2008/02/todays- photo-an.html http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=4271465 It appears that they made their point, regardless of the press release from CoS. Check Google News and search on Feb 10 Scientology. There is a variety of articles posted. The Minneapolis protest was covered here. Atlanta even had riot police according to a protester. This wasn't ignored. As i understand it, the next one is March 15th.

seanferd
seanferd

At least one of the groups is certainly like the SA. I'm sure that Anonymous, like any group, may have its own cache of violent authoritarian types as well. :D

JCitizen
JCitizen

I have no problem with defending one's self from hate-mongers; but this activity boarders on brownshirt "Kristallnacht" behavior. Maybe I'm still over reacting. It will come out in the laundry eventually!

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

hmmm, cars have license plates. They probably went somewhere to eat, etc... But I really wasnt trying to say it was a bad thing, just thought it was a bit funny.

Tig2
Tig2

Is more to indicate that the protest is not a single person but a large group of people. That and they are giving a nod to the CoS' litigious nature. When they talk about the CoS attacking people who speak out against them, they aren't kidding. Mark Bunker- Wise Beard Man- has been following CoS for years. He was present at a protest in LA, filming. Not picketing, filming. The next day, Scientologists were at his house picketing and passing leaflets through his neighborhood, warning his neighbors to "beware of" him. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. They harassed a journalist for nearly 20 years because she wrote a book about them. Anonymous is a protective veil. And a well reasoned one.

JamesRL
JamesRL

But I would say given one of the key points in the movie it is VERY appropriate to use that Mask. James

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

[probably unintended] double entendre in this match between Anonymous and CoS. CoS has a very nasty habit of destroying its' known enemies (anything from simple harassment to ruining reputations, inducing bankruptcy, torturing, and sometimes killing). If one does not wish to be targeted by CoS, anonymity in attacking/fighting back is imperative. Not necessarily what you were asking, I think, but ironic and therefore interesting nonetheless. ;)

seanferd
seanferd

Anonymous has been around a lot longer than this particular event. It is basically a hacker mystique thing. The CoS protest grew way beyond the original Anonymous gig.

JCitizen
JCitizen

do these activists use the term "Anonymous" to project that to practice free speech it has come to a reality now that you have to be anonymous in order to be critical of someone?

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

the protestors were all wearing the same mask. It was an oddly appropriate mask given the subject of the protest! lol I didn't know the origin of the mask, so thanks.

Tig2
Tig2

They have seen the power of peaceful protest and will continue to use it. Average age was in the 30s range with early 20s at the low and mid 40s at the high. These guys got very smart, very quickly.

Tig2
Tig2

That yesterday it was 40 below, your brother could have been out there and no one would have recognized him. The face coverings were a requirement. I saw a photo of one guy with icicles hanging in his eyebrows. In Minnesota, you are virtually ALWAYS anonymous in the winter. Our local Starbucks and Caribou helped by giving protesters free hot drinks and letting them come in to warm up periodically.

JamesRL
JamesRL

They wore those masks of Guy Fawkes from V for Vengence... The protests here and in Montreal were covered, not the denial of service attacks. James

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

doesnt that make Anonymous -- not Anonymous anymore???

DanLM
DanLM

I was flipping back and forth between the 2 threads getting the urls. Glad I seen your post or else I would have really felt stupid. lol, but hey... That wouldn't be anything new. Dan

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

There is an International Headquarters for one of CoS 'child organizations' in my area. It will be interesting to see whether or not it draws any protest today. It should also be interesting to see what happens in Clearwater, FL. Another of CoS primary administrative zones.

cquirke
cquirke

We've seen ad-hoc use of the 'net outperform formal music distributors and promotors (as long as you don't mind getting paid for your work, perhaps). This is a similar thing, where "we" can compete with corporate PR in building brand image. I see that as a very good thing, and long overdue.

chaz15
chaz15

In this case, given the very bad reputation of the Scientology brainwashing doctrine, and their 'abduction' of new enrolees, in this case I think it is a very very good thing. BUT apart from bestiality and some perverted web sites, and child sex exploitation/ cruelty, on the whole I am against any form of Internet censorship, except on the basis of what is obviously very wrong behaviour. I think people can mostly make up their own minds, given proper information. But there are some dangerous sects about, and terrorist information that I would be very glad to see deleted from the Internet. Yes there is a dividing line, but in some cases it comes down to a 'fine line'or other people's preferences. There are SOME things that are obviously WRONG and contrary to peace and harmony.

tomhirtler
tomhirtler

The problem with censorship is who gets to choose? Perhaps something that to you is "obviously wrong" to me is just an annoyance. Between you and I we can discuss and come to some mutually agreeable solution; but that won't work with so many of us. There things I wish didn't exist; but once they exist the information will get around. Banning it from the Internet will only slow it down it doesn't disappear.

Absolutely
Absolutely

be used in investigation of the crimes they depict. Taking down such sites, rather than pursuing the perpetrators, is evidence tampering.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Just the thought of it done successfully makes me drool! :p

Absolutely
Absolutely

Occasionally I overlook something. [i]Sorry if it seems off topic but we're talking about DDoS attacks as part of the subject, I hope.[/i] I cannot think of anybody around here who has any room to nag you about being "off topic." Death threats, password crack requests and racism are forbidden. Pretty much all other forms of speech seem to be encouraged, though I've probably forgotten a few things that are frowned upon. :D [i]A lot of what is going on here is power tripping; CoS or BotNets and either of them could get ugly with a small turn to the worse. The attack of botnets would show the crackers that we won't take it anymore, and the victims might finally find out their computer is infected; however I admit the mess it would cause would make all of us victims for loss of network.[/i] Not necessarily... [i]As I am sure it would overwhelm most of the net/cloud.[/i] That could actually be done responsibly, with meticulous [well-automated] collection of many log files, and re-distribution on something like BOINC [http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ ], notifications could be sent to ISP's about particular IPs, or directly to home users by using X-Originating-IP info retrieved from SPAM in combination with valid, or at least plausible e-mail addresses [defined as those used to send a reasonable average daily number (10?) of separate messages, or user-redefined on opt-in basis...] the response could be revised from "net-shredding counterattack" to "civilized notification of infected hosts." So I take back what I implied earlier about that being a terrible idea; It's such a great idea, I'm on the verge of writing a BOINC application and a funding request! edit: white space is required to define the end of a URL.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Sorry if it seems off topic but we're talking about DDoS attacks as part of the subject, I hope. A lot of what is going on here is power tripping; CoS or BotNets and either of them could get ugly with a small turn to the worse. The attack of botnets would show the crackers that we won't take it anymore, and the victims might finally find out their computer is infected; however I admit the mess it would cause would make all of us vicims for loss of network. As I am sure it would overwhelm most of the net/cloud.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Botnets run on legitimate users' PCs, and get there by a widely-documented variety of illegitimate, fraudulent paths. Attacking botnets is not something I support, although I sympathize with the basic sentiment. Vandals, including but not limited to crackers, tend to have little or nothing of value to destroy or damage, and to place little or no value on whatever they do have, making retaliation, other than imprisonment, very inefficient. I'm glad to see crimes committed using computers treated more like crimes committed using older tools, and less like a unique, protected class. Criminals are criminals, the collar of their collar makes no difference to the damages sustained by their victims. As BOFHs and such, I think the most we can do is use and encourage the use of encryption, to reduce the amount of data downloaded from untrusted sources.

JCitizen
JCitizen

but if it was Anonymous that was attacked and they are fighting fire with peaceful protest; I got to sympathize with them. They don't sound like a hate organization, but I'm still checking this all out. The target I would like to see for DDoS attacks would be the botnet. However they have more computing power than we. This could change if everyone decided to arm their servers and system units with the same capability! Maybe we would out number them! I can't imagine the mess this kind of "war" would cause.

Absolutely
Absolutely

I had to make some effort not to post a message that looked to myself like a dodge, because I'm really only casually interested in this. Although I've seen [i]talk[/i] of a DDoS attack, my overall impression is that it's more a publicity stunt, and mostly protected Free Speech & Peaceable Assembly, with the goal of bringing attention to a large, private, obscure, abusive organization and the way it operates. Although some of what has been proposed might be over some lines, the really interesting parts to me are the types of grievances, and some of the specific ones like the removal of some YouTube video. But again, not having an interest in Scientology as such, I didn't notice at the time. Assuming the CoS is as bad as Anonymous says, I wish them luck, but it's not something I know much about going into this, and I'm definitely not tempted to travel a few hundred miles or more to march with them. But, it is an interesting example of using electronic communication to mobilize a "community" that would otherwise not be likely to form, other than maybe as members of a class-action litigation. The comparison to the history of California was probably a lot more astute than I was able to appreciate because of my ignorance of CoS and of the history of California.

JCitizen
JCitizen

and your views. I appreciate it as usual. This particular news item will be as a learning curve for me. I was asking for your perspective on the news topic and blew it - but you picked right up and answered very well, thank you! Oh but for the proper placement of a line; I do need to learn to cut and paste!

Absolutely
Absolutely

I was not talking, in the post about websites as evidence of crimes, about Anonymous & CoS. I was taking a tangent, about censorship more generally, and I meant it in relation to censorship authorized by the owner or host of a site, and/or state-mandated, so "vigilantism" really doesn't apply. My point was not about who should take down a site, or under what circumstances. From the previous two posts, the scenario was a depiction of undoubtedly criminal behavior, and what to do about it. If such evidence is destroyed, redress would only be possible by vigilante methods, I suppose, but I've heard of no cases of that being done and many cases of such materials circulating on the 'Net. So, I'd stand by my original statement; using the posted depictions of illegal acts would be more helpful if treated as broadcast confessions, of unknown origin, or more concisely, as clues. [i]However, as I found in the study of basic law and history. Not all vigilante models were failures of rule or law. California's territorial action early 1800's being one. What would be your general perspective on this?[/i] Rather than brushing up on a topic I never knew very well, I'll go out on a limb; assuming I understand what you've said, and informal "posses" were more effective at that time and place than elsewhere, there must have been a more general consensus on the nature of the problem, the appropriate solution, and willingness to undertake acting for that solution. I'm not convinced Anonymous has the muscle to do more than stir up free publicity for CoS.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Perhaps as in the wild west when frustrated people formed possies and strung 'em up; frustration has fomented another arbitrary action in the "wild west" of the web. Will they regret this in the future? Hindsight points to historic failures in the rule of law. However, as I found in the study of basic law and history. Not all vigilante models were failures of rule or law. California's territorial action early 1800's being one. What would be your general perspective on this?

j-repka
j-repka

This disturbs me: "... I will avoid the famed wrath of the group by not citing them." When we fear wrath for a reasonable act, things are not right.

seanferd
seanferd

It is disturbing. Something *is* wrong. It is too bad that it necessarily affected the way that the article was written. But so it is.

Tig2
Tig2

I might have chosen a different approach. But I have a responsibility to the publishers of this site to not risk their name or invite legal action from a group that likes to litigate. And to me, the point of the article is Anonymous and how they have come together to try and affect change. All that said, I agree with you completely. But that is part of what is fueling Anonymous' protest.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

For whatever reason, we certainly seem to have a lot of comments from relatively new members on this topic. I'm Googling a lot of terms I never heard before (4chan, skynet, etc.). Tiggie, I wonder if you've inadvertently raised our profile too high already. Ah, well, it's only the Internet. Remember, arguing on the Internet is like competing in the Special Olympics. You may win, but just participating tells people a lot about you.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Every 1-D-10-T With A Couple Bucks can take the "truth" to the whole world. :)

tomhirtler
tomhirtler

Skynet was the self aware computer system in the terminator movies. Interesting movies; I took it as yet another example of things humans are capable of but shouldn't do.

journeyer58
journeyer58

The lines have not blurred! What is happening with CoS and anonymous is the result of careful and logical planning. Anon is not the beast that CoS makes it out to be, the net should be used to garner information and spread what we know to be the truth. CoS cannot stand that people are rising up and using the same tools they have been using for so long. Now the chickens have come home to roost and CoS, is the target of truth and light. How should the net react if Anonymous is successful in their fight against a supremely ugly idea of religion? We should be grateful that there are anon's that are willing to be in the forefront of the fight against injustice and behaviour that is plainly fascist and tyrannical. Cos refuses to be open about their faith and practices and anyone today that is unwilling to have the scrutiny of the people cannot and will not survive the light of the truth shining in their little corner of the world.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

While I can care less about Scientology, there have been some recent attacks that have been illegal against them. In one attack, that I have read about, a person that knows little about computers was hit hard, because he had an open access point (wireless) that was used. In other words, they attacked the wrong person, posted his personal information and his wife's personal information on a website. And it appears that you condone this behaviour because it has an ultimate good to it (in your opinion). Would you be so willing if it was your credit card #'s and SS#'s being posted? I have no problem with 1 group going after another. But, when they cross the line, they should be tracked down and charged with criminal behaviour

Tig2
Tig2

That the report you are referring to was not correct. I am looking for definitive evidence and will post what I find. The unsubstantiated report is that the guy that made the claim was not harmed, the information was never posted and the guy and his wife are both practicing Scientologists. As I said, that is not substantiated and I am continuing to look for a definitive answer.

sam47220561
sam47220561

Sure. A significant cross-section of the people that do the stuff that creates Anonymous aren't about "being good". The nature of online *Anonymity*, and how it changes conversation, what it reveals in people, might also make a good discussion. Rabid posting of pornography, insults, stupid jokes, the appearance of prank-calling through Skype, "blackfaxing" through online services... Anonymity can reveal all sorts of petty spite and nastiness in people. But it can also reveal better things. Many people do not take a firm stand on morals IRL because they feel that they cannot live up to their own moral code; after all, no sin is painted badly as quickly as hypocrisy. But failing to live up to a moral code (stated or not) does not always indicate insincerity. And so? Anonimity can *also* make it safe to reveal noble intent. And sometimes, this nobility and that spite can appear in the very same place, only words away from one another.

sam47220561
sam47220561

Here's what I know: The most defining feature, the "main trunk" of what makes Anonymous effective and makes it possible to treat it as a single thing, is high-speed propagation and high-intensity peer review of any idea through forums, IRC, and other media, forming consensus where it did not previously exist. Granted, the peer review is likely to include BOTH intelligent thoughts and commentary like, say, "Show us yer tits". I don't claim that I have any idea at all where the white powder thing came from. But I will say this: The idea was never brought up, propagated, or reviewed in the informal, silly, high-intensity way that characterises Anonymous. So, was it sent by "Anonymous, the overall entity"? No. It wasn't. Simple as that. Could someone that takes part in those discussions that make up Anonymous have done so? While possible, it's almost meaningless; not quite as meaningless as asking "Could it have been someone who drives a car?", but not that far away, either.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

while an interesting read, my main point that I was trying to make was that there are lines being crossed, and that I feel that those that crossed the lines should be prosecuted. As for the info I provided, I was trying not to give specifics, but I brought up credit cards and SS #'s because the previous poster seemed to decide that it was 'ok' because of a greater good. I posed it as a 'what if' his info was posted, would it still be 'ok'? Or would it be different cause it hits closer to home? I have also read that Anonymous does not condone this type of behaviour, but since anyone can call themselves Anonymous, many do not follow the rules. So, the very thing that makes this group more powerful, is the same thing that makes it look bad due to a few hoodlums. Just posted this to clarify some things. Thanks for the reply.

Tig2
Tig2

Because of the "white powder" incident, I wanted to have good information on what happened before saying anything one way or another. I have heard that the white powder thing was the CoS itself and I have seen the postings of Anonymous that categorically state that they had nothing to do with it. And I am concerned that it sounds so much like something that was done during Operation Freakout to discredit someone considered a PTS- Potential Trouble Source. It will be -25 in Minneapolis on Sunday. No one will need a mask, they'll be bundled to the eyes.

sam47220561
sam47220561

There was some guy that got caught in a crossfire. No credit card numbers were posted, but the SS# for his wife was, and they got anonymously called and shouted at (possibly even threatened, I'm not sure). It lasted a full day, after which the mistake was realised, the information removed, and at least a couple of apology calls were also made. NOTE: This post is *not* meant to excuse such stupidity; it is, simply, inexcusable. Just to explain events more clearly.

kps_46635
kps_46635

Like all organized religions is a big 'FRAUD' they are there only for the money. I consider myself a christian but I will never affiliate myself with a church again. Why? You might ask! What I have found along the way is back biting, back stabing, and very un christian like attitudes. I have seen memeber of a churches stab the pastor in the back just because the disagree with him. I have seen members start rumors about others members. I want nothing of this form of religions! Try walking the walk and not just talking the talk. I am also fed up with the Tele-Evangalist of the world. They are complete 'FRAUDS'

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Gotta take issue with that statement, only because of the 'all' word. While it is true that in relation to produce, one bad apple does spoil the whole barrel, leave produce row and it no longer applies. ALL religions are not 'fraudulent', ALL religious people are not phonies, ALL atheists are not amoral, ALL politicians are not liars (gads, did I just say that?). Never say never and all that. edit: complete a phrase

santeewelding
santeewelding

Take it another step How does one say "all"? How, rationally?

santeewelding
santeewelding

..near as hilarious as Tig's "imaginary friend." And, yes, student, you may take that hilarity in at least two ways, or more. How to say "all" rationally was dead serious. I suppose you knew that; just didn't want to get into something with someone holding the key to the backdoor of your programming. Security, and all, you know. Getting back, getting way back, you know.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Bill Cosby is a very funny fellow, thanks Palmetto!

Absolutely
Absolutely

I'm vaguely aware that he was a professional raconteur before his televised work, but not really familiar with his material prior to the middle 1980's.

santeewelding
santeewelding

A long-ago line by Bill Cosby: his girlfriend, a philosophy major; he, phys ed; she wandering about musing, "Why is there air?"

santeewelding
santeewelding

It's to blow up basketballs with. And, aha. Doublespeak. The infection proceeds nicely.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I'm embarassed at the behavior of the members of my old church, but they are dwindling down every year utill it will be an abandon building. Sometimes I wonder if I should go back and start a class on Sunday to point out how silly people today act just as bad as they did in the bible stories. Just anything to try to change things a small little bit for the better. The christian religion as we know it is dying on the vine. But maybe it is actually better, as one can make a difference just treating a neighbor the way you would like to be treated.

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