The hacking collective Anonymous has called its “legions” of hackers to “destroy” Facebook on November the 5, 2011. Novemeber the 5th has special significance for the group as that date of the foiled gunpowder plot planned by Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators. Guy Fawkes was the inspiration of a masked anarchist named “V” in the graphic novel V for Vendetta, made popular by a film of the same name. His icon: a Guy Fawkes mask, which Anonymous has used in public protests.
The recent riots in London bear testimony to the anger felt by ordinary citizens against the authority of their governments. The chilling effect of this anger have been felt in Arizona, Norway, and now the UK.
In the case of the Facebook attack, Anonymous accuses Facebook of selling personal information to governments and third parties, and keeping it indefinitely, even when a user deletes an account. This behavior is true, as far as I know. By that logic, Google would also be guilty, and is possibly a future target of the group, even though Google has made many public statements to try to clear its image.
The list of the corporate victims of Anonymous is growing: Sony, Amazon, Paypal, Mastercard, Bank of America, Apple, and others. Governments have also been targeted by the group: Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, are among them. Religious groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, and the Church of Scientology have drawn their ire.
Anonymous serves as a clarion call for hackers who consider themselves “ethical”. They point to a cause they view as worthy, and direct the considerable brainpower of all those who might be interested toward it.
With our increasingly wired society, everyone is vulnerable. This site has been hacked before, albeit not for ethical reasons but for financial ones (the hackers were spreading malware). It is very easy to break in to most servers.
But after the flames are extinguished, what will be left? Is there anyone who is not guilty of something? Is it hypocritical of groups like them to single out a villain, when they themselves are using online violence to suit their ends? Their anonymity and distributed nature serve to mask their responsibility. Can they see that they are not blameless angels of vengeance? Can they see that they tarnish their cause with their virtual violence?