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article imageOp-Ed: The last thing Julian Assange needs is an 'ally' like Anonymous

By Michael Cosgrove     Dec 9, 2010 in Politics
Like him or not, Julian Assange has worked hard to try and foster an image of responsible journalism for Wikileaks, but he will end up being associated with cyber-criminality by the public if he does not condemn malicious hacking by Anonymous soon.
According to an unofficial spokesman who calls himself Coldblood, Anonymous, a group of around 1000 Internet hackers – or “hacktivists” - is “quite a loose” conglomerate of college kids, their parents and IT people. They share “the same kind of ideals” and wish to be considered as “a force for chaotic good” he says. Anonymous acts “whenever it feels like it” says Coldblood, and is “against” governments and industries who “interfere” with the Internet, and has refused to comment on the possibility that it may attack government-run websites, preferring the more crypic-and-ominous-sounding remark “anything goes.”
Anonymous also happens to be against any company which hinders Wikileaks in any way, and that is why it recently organized what it called the Operation Payback campaign and launched a series of DDoS attacks which seriously hampered the sites of companies it considers to be guilty of withdrawing its money-handling or other services from Wikileaks or opposing it in any way. Its victims so far include PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, and the Swedish Prosecutor’s offices involved in the attempt to force Julian Assange to come back to Sweden to face allegations of sex offenses. Other sites that have been hit include Swissbank and PostFinance. In other words, Anonymous has become a self-designated ally of Wikileaks.
It has promised to attack Twitter too, and although today has been full of rumors and denials about an imminent attack, what is known as this article goes online is that a so-far unsuccessful DDoS attack has been launched on Internet host site Amazon, which ditched Wikileaks recently, and that dissension has broken out within Anonymous itself about which tactics to adopt next. Facebook has dropped it although it has kept Wikileaks and there is confusion everywhere, as can be read on The Guardian’s live news blog.
This, then, is Julian Assange’s newest ally. But is Anonymous really an ally? Is it really contributing to the future of Wikileaks and is it really helping Assange to achieve his objectives? No, it isn’t.
Assange is currently engaged in a crucial fight to save his site, his reputation, and the possible threat of legal action on any one of a number of charges – some of them more fanciful than others – of theft, espionage, endangering US national security, sexual offenses and others. Some of his detractors have even called for him to be executed, although some of those calls were obviously bad attempts by foreigners to imitate black and withering British humor.
The very last thing he needs right now is to be associated with a group of college kids and their hangers-on whose mischievous behavior is turning into a serious attack on commercial interests. These kids represent nobody, they were not elected to act on anyone else’s behalf, and they are soon going to become the focus of very strong reprisals by both business interests and governments alike.
Assange has always said that he is not attacking business or government, only what he sees as being their abuse of power and their secrecy. That is fair enough. He has always done his best in his rather naive way to disassociate his activities from those of hackers and cyber-attackers, and he has for the most part succeeded in convincing many people that he is more-or-less capable of living up to his claim that he is not an enemy of society.
So why did Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson have nothing better to say earlier today than "We neither condemn nor applaud these attacks. We believe they are a reflection of public opinion on the actions of the targets."
That is not good enough. Anonymous does not represent public opinion. How can anonymous people represent anyone? Moreover, if it goes through with its threats to attack Twitter and, as rumors have suggested, Facebook too, it is going to face an enormous backlash, not only from business but from the Internet public and the public at large, who will surely see this as an escalation of the Wikileaks campaign which was designed to hurt them as Internet users. And that in turn would have the disastrous effect of associating Assange. Not forgetting of course that it would strengthen opposition to him in government circles.
If ever that happens, Julian Assange will lose most of any support he may have garnered and all the public relations work that he has been doing will be reduced to zero.
That is the last thing Assange needs at this time. He should disown and denounce Anonymous quickly, for his own sake.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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