Social Media Payback Can Be A B*tch Sometimes

With Julian Assange now under arrest, it's not enough for protesters to wield protest signs asking to "Free The Wikileaks Founder." No, in the digital age, you hit opposing forces where it hurts - their Web sites! To that end, a group of hackers under an initiative dubbed "Operation Payback" are in full throttle mode to take down Web sites of those that have denied service or accused Assange of illegal activities.

Titled "Anonymous", the group retains their anonymity while setting their sights on financial organizations in attempt to either disrupt service or bring down Web sites for indefinite periods of time. This YouTube video was the first cyber protest made by the group back in late October.

As quoted in the video, the group is adamant about fighting governmental censorship wherever it raises its head. "The unjust restrictions you impose on us will meet with disaster and only strengthen our resolve to disobey and rebel against tyranny," is the group's war cry and positions them to do battle against such heavyweights as Visa, Mastercard and Paypal.

Panda Security, an international network protecting users against viruses recently compiled a list of Operation Payback's targets.

  •  After pulling the plug on payments to WikiLeaks, Mastercard’s website was taken down (but as of this post was reported back in service).
  • PayPal (Anon took down the blog, but it’s now operational)
  •  Senator Joe Lieberman’s website was taken down for 12 minutes (the first .gov site to be attacked).
  •  The group sent spam faxes to Joe Lieberman’s office and to PostFinance.
  •  PostFinance was attacked the hardest, leaving customers without the ability to conduct online banking.
  •  They took down the Web site of the lawyer representing the two women who were allegedly   raped/assaulted by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
  •  The group also attacked Assange’s Swedish prosecutor’s Web site.
  •  Sarah Palin’s Web site was taken offline by a small group of Anonymous attackers.

In regards to Palin, The Hill reported that the OP hackers' attacks on former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's Web site were based on her speaking out against Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

“No wonder others are keeping silent about Assange's antics,” Palin e-mailed ABC News. “This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts.”

Palin previously condemned Assange on her Facebook page, accusing him of outing Afghan intelligence sources to the Taliban. She urged the U.S. to pursue him with same zeal as al Qaeda and the Taliban, and accused Obama of "incompetence" in his follow-up on the matter.

In my previous post, "Social Media Leaks Categorize Julian Assange As The Osama Bin Laden Of the Internet," I draw comparisons to how the Wikileaks founder is considered by many as "public enemy number one" - more important to bring to justice, than even bin Laden.

The difference being, now that Assange has been arrested (and bin Laden is still on the loose), does the US claim victory and forgot about the man who committed one of the greatest crimes against humanity? To blend censorship issues with "terrorism" is a very slippery slope, and while "Operation Payback" might also be classified as an extremist group, we should not lose sight of the importance of lives jeopardized by men who set out to maim and kill, versus those that are simply reporting what they find. Your thoughts, readers?

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