Anonymous, the digital protesters who specialize in temporarily disabling targeted websites, posted a YouTube video July 16 threatening to destroy Internet giant Facebook. The video went viral the second week of August and now has over 1.4 million views. At the same time, the @anonops twitter feed, thought by many to be one of the official mouthpieces of the group, tweeted Operation Facebook was fake Aug. 9. Anonymous has no central leadership or designated spokespeople, leaving analysts and Facebook users to wonder if Facebook might be vulnerable.
Furthermore, the same twitter account later said there were some members of the group working on Operation Facebook, but the whole force of the organization was not in support of the plan.
The YouTube video lays out the plan to destroy Facebook over purported secrecy violations. “Kill Facebook for the sake of your own privacy,” a computerized voice said in the video.
Publicity Coup for Anonymous
There’s no way to tell if the threat will be carried out, and Facebook has declined comment so far. Either way, the amount of attention being paid to the threat continues a year long streak of free publicity for Anonymous. The group identifies themselves as hackers and are most widely known for taking revenge against the website PayPal who helped block donations to the website Wikileaks. Anonymous used a barrage of traffic to temporarily disable the website, a tactic called distributed denial of service.
An attack on Facebook and its 750 million users, however, could prompt a backlash against Anonymous. The negative attention for Anonymous could outweigh any perceived victory in a successful attack.
“We may experience some attacks on Facebook – but not on the scale the original announcement says,” Eugene Kaspersky, a web security expert said on his blog.
Facebooks of the World a Target
The Anonymous YouTube video said the attack is planned for Nov. 5, 2011. In the UK, Nov. 5 is popularly known as Guy Fawkes day, a national celebration of the failed 1605 attempted bombing of parliament. The graphic novel V for Vendetta and film of the same name made use of a Guy Fawkes mask in the story of an anarchic anti-authoritarian hero. Anonymous members have adopted the Fawkes mask as a symbol of their collective ideals.
In this vein, Anonymous has taken up the cause of a free Internet and they decry Facebook's purported selling of members' information to third parties and the government. Anonymous accused Facebook in the video of selling information to Egypt and Syria so those governments could then spy on their citizens.
A successful Anonymous attack would be unprecedented, and Facebook might become the first in a line of large Internet companies to be attacked, a sign of weakness that could send shock waves to all corners of the web. A failed attempt on Facebook, on the other hand, probably wouldn't hurt Anonymous that much because of their effort to disavow any such operation.
Although an unlikely outcome, a successful attack could be bad for both Facebook and Anonymous. Nevertheless, the true intent of Operation Facebook may only be to advance the claim that Facebook has been lying to its members. In that case, Anonymous could be considered the winner of this round.