Anonymous, the hacking group that claims it has scruples but no real leadership, faced two challenges earlier this month: one apparently from within, and one from without. While the group remains intact, it may have lost some of its dubious credibility in the process.
The first challenge hit when reports surfaced that Anonymous planned to take down Facebook. It turned out those reports were in error. According to an Anonymous post to Pastebin, quoted by Elinor Mills,
"Anonymous is a movement we don't take kindly to when people try to (expletive) it up. Our movement relies on communicating with people around the world so we can help one another...One skiddy queer chap named Anthony [last name redacted] from the US in Ohio decided to take it upon himself to have some lulz with creating an imaginary opfacebook and pawning it off as a legit anon op....Despite us telling this mate several times we did not support his op, he continued to push his agenda for lulz. This op is phony but he continues to say it's an anon op."
The statement included the alleged individual's full name, address, phone number, and other personal information, and encourages people to call him. In their statement, Anonymous points out that they use Facebook and similar sites to communicate, and anyone trying to take these sites down is “trying to disrupt our movement.”
The problem, Mills notes, is that, given the way Anonymous conducts itself, this can rapidly devolve into a he said/she said situation. “If Anonymous can be anyone and no one is identified then no one is accountable for anything and anyone can take an action in the name of Anonymous,” she pointed out. For instance, the Anthony named by Anonymous claims that he did not launch OpFacebook; he just created the page on Facebook and filled it with information from other sources. In an e-mail communication with CNET, Anthony insists that he was used as a scapegoat. According to Anthony, Anonymous found out that they couldn't take down Facebook, and decided to claim that there was no “op,” just one person trying to start something. It's not clear who is telling the truth, or who to believe.
Anonymous may be able to take on one potential rogue, but some forces play hardball. That's why the hacktivist group backed down from an operation against the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico. According to another article by Elinor Mills, Anonymous originally planned to expose the names of associates of the cartel – in response to one of their members being kidnapped. Anonymous Iberoamerica (apparently the branch of the non-organized organization covering Mexico) reported that their kidnapped member was returned, and “although bruised, we can say he is safe and well.”
But the return of one of their own isn't the only reason Anonymous has called off their threat. The Zetas drug cartel made a threat of their own: for every name revealed that is related to the cartel, the Zetas will kill 10 people. Given the drug cartel's reputation, this is no idle threat.
Anonymous, in this case, discloses in their statement that they decided to do the only responsible thing. “The Anonymous collective has decided by consensus that the information we have not disclosed for now, that we understand we can not ignore threats that involve innocent people who have nothing to do with our actions,” their statement explained.
Barrett Brown, a spokesman for Anonymous in past operations, claims that he plans to continue gathering intelligence despite OpCartel's cancellation. He seems to be willing to soldier on despite the effect on his personal life. In a recent tweet, he complained that "Now my weed dealer won't come by because he's afraid of the damned Zetas." Obviously, when people know who you are, you'd better pick your battles carefully.
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