In protest of a pending anti-piracy measure currently before the U.S. Congress, the hacker group "Anonymous" has posted personal information about two of the most powerful men in media, Time Warner Chief Executive Jeffrey L. Bewkes and Sumner M. Redstone, head of Viacom and CBS.
In an action it calls "Operation Hiroshima", the "hacktivist" group has declared all-out war on the media and government figures it holds responsible for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), according to the New York Times's "Media Decoder" blog.
SOPA and its Senate companion bill, called the "Protect I.P. Act" (PIPA) aim to stop online piracy of copyrighted materials like movies, T.V. shows, and video games by granting private companies and the government greater authority to shut down websites both within the U.S. and abroad. Activists and Internet professionals argue that the bills give outside agencies too much control over Internet content and could result in censorship and the erosion of free speech.
Both sides have spent millions of dollars lobbying lawmakers, but many of the online activists opposed to the laws don't have the financial clout necessary to hire the types of lobbyists who work for Viacom and Time Warner. Instead, they have resorted to direct action, publishing a trove of "hacked" information through websites like Pastebin.com and Scribd.com.
So far, the documents have included personal and contact information on everyone from Bewkes and Redstome to New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Chief Raymond W. Kelly. "Operation Hiroshima", which goes by the Twitter hash-tag "#OpHiroshima" began on January 1.
Lawmakers and their aides have also been targeted. One 25-year-old Congressional aide's face was superimposed on to pornographic images by a purportedly 'Anonymous'-affiliated group. Another aide expressed bafflement as to why hackers would resort to these types of tactics, saying, "Why can't they just hire a lobbyist like everyone else?"
"Media Decoder" quotes Dallas-based activist Barrett Brown as saying of SOPA supporters, "They should feel threatened. The idea is to put pressure on the politicians and companies supporting it."
Companies like Google and Yahoo oppose the measure as well, but grass-roots action on the web is getting results. The web-hosting company Go Daddy initially supported the bill, but withdrew its support after thousands of web sites including WikiPedia threatened to pull their domains from the Go Daddy network.
Fred Wilson of venture capital firm Union Square Ventures told "Media Decoder" that he did not support threats or intimidation by hackers, but urged Internet users to register their opposition to the bill.
“The more outrage expressed on the Internet in the coming days," he said, "the better.”
(image from the Flickr photostream of Stian Eikeland)