The online protest group “Anonymous” claimed in a video published Thursday that it was targeting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its dogged support of the “Protect IP Act,” which they called an effort at “censorship.”
“This bill would allow the United States Government to force ISP’s and search engines to censor websites they do not like under the guise of “copyright protection,” a disembodied voice explains in the video. “Instead of reducing piracy, this bill endangers the free flow of information. Through Domain seizures, ISP blockades, search engine censorship, and the restriction of funding to accused websites, this bill takes Internet censorship to a new level.”
Although the message seems to be something of a retread for the group, which threatened the Chamber over Protect IP in May as well, the timing is quite intentional. The House Judiciary Committee held their first hearing on its version of the bill, known in the House as the Stopping Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
SOPA is essentially a rebranding of the Protect IP Act, heavily supported by entertainment industry groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They unanimously claim it would protect American jobs by shutting down online media piracy, which they blame for declining sales.
But its detractors, companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Aol, see SOPA a little differently. While SOPA would make it easier for U.S. authorities to crack down on websites accused of pirating movies, television shows and music, it would also allow the government and copyright owners to disable credit card processing for sites they claim are engaging or enabling copyright infringement.
And that’s precisely what has members of “Anonymous” buzzing as well.
“The Internet is a place where anyone and everyone can come together freely to share information and opinions,” their video explains. “The freedom the Internet provides has served us well, and driven our intellectual progress, sparked revolutions and changed the lives of many, all of which has been accomplished without the interference of corporations, governments, or any other global institutions until now.”
They conclude: “We must unite and stand up to those who wish to censor the Internet. We must protect what is rightfully ours. We must attack in defense of our homeland.”
It’s not quite clear what they may try to do, although the video does show an image of the “low orbit ion canon” (LOIC) from the computer strategy game “Command and Conquer.” That game inspired an old piece of server-testing software which goes by the same name, as it essentially allows users to blast servers with continual requests for pages, which is precisely what servers are designed to withstand.
However, their last attempt at launching a denial of service attack on the Chamber’s networks through what’s known as a “LOIC horde” proved insufficient. But then again, with all the activity in Washington and in the press over Protect IP and SOPA in recent days, there may yet be enough interested, angry technocrats to join a digital sit-in.
Like any message from “Anonymous,” it should as well be taken with a grain of salt. And, although their brand has accrued some notable victories over the last year, it’s never clear exactly who is creating these messages, or if there’s even true intent and capability to follow through on the threats.
Still, as “Anonymous” likes to say, they should probably be expected.
This video was published to YouTube on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011.
Photo: Flickr user bogieharmond.