As a followup to my last post about the planned day of protests against SOPA and PIPA I also want to touch upon an event that also involved online activists and activism but occurred just a day after the internet blackout. On Thursday, January 19th, the US Department of Justice shut down the popular file-sharing site Megaupload for a variety of offenses, most prominently the sharing of illegally pirated movies and music.
While this action by the Justice Department does touch upon some issues of interest to social movement scholars, especially those interested in movements to protect intellectual property, it was the response of the online activist group Anonymous that bears the most attention. Immediately after the announced seizure of Megaupload the hacker collective Anonymous issues a statement condemning the attack and promising retribution against the DoJ. This retribution took the form of a botnet that launched a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack against the DoJ website. This attack was noteworthy in that it used the computers of curious bystanders who merely needed to click on a link provided by various Anonymous affiliated media sites without getting the permission of these bystanders in what is typically considered a criminal act.
This tactic by Anonymous used the computers of curious bystanders to further their own movement goals and also showed why cybersecurity and the exact dimensions of legal vs. illegal online protest have become such hot topics among those of us that research these topics.
For more information regarding the group Anonymous and their past activism I highly recommend Quinn Norton’s series on the group that she did for Wired’s Threat Level blog last year: