Hackers around the world united today in an effort to fight censorship of the popular and controversial WikiLeaks site. According to police reports, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested because he is being charged with the rape of two Swedish women. Assange is currently in the custody of the UK and is currently fighting extradition to Sweden.
Activists banded together to cripple several financial websites that refused to process donations to the WikiLeaks site because it engages in illegal activity. The activists have named the hacking scheme “Operation Payback,” and hope to cripple the sites so that censorship and movements against WikiLeaks will cease.
That said, there are several aspects to consider. The fact that WikiLeaks was already involved in apparently illegal dealings and is under investigation bodes well only for the site’s public visibility. The more trouble the site gets in to, the more interested people will become. However, this does not mean that the media attention will necessarily be positive. Many people will likely check out the site only to see just how corrupt it really is, given all the bad press that it has garnered.
When it comes to Assange himself, he will likely be hurt by his radical followers’ actions. Rather than hosting a peaceful, more dignified protest or rally, his followers have taken a rather childish turn and have taken the eye-for-an-eye approach. A man is only as good as the company he keeps, and there is no doubt Assange’s image will be affected by the type of person his plight draws to him. Those on the outside of the ordeal will likely not see the power he has over his followers, but rather assume he must also be somewhat spiteful to have found followers so willing to wage an all-out digital war.
There is no word from Assange himself on the matter as of yet, possibly due to the fact that he is facing criminal charges and more public attention may hurt his case. Companies at this point that are being affected by the hack are in near full-scale denial. Despite reports that MasterCard and other financial sites are being hacked and crippled, they chalk the slow down up to high user traffic. Big-name companies will most likely continue to take the head-in-the-sand route and try to make things seem better than they are in an attempt to take the power out of the hands of the hackers.
Esther Addley and Josh Halliday, Operation Payback cripples MasterCard site in revenge for WikiLeaks ban, gaurdian.co.uk