What I find truly scary is confusing “free” or “open” internet with making money out of sharing illegal content by breaking copyright rules, then launching attacks to defend that profit centre. Megaupload is a profit-based operation, same as a TV company, record label or film studio. Anonymous dashing to the rescue is just one type of enforcement battling against another, but with the same goals – to protect a capitalistic business model. They aren’t fighting over content or the right to access and share it, they are fighting over making money out of content.
That the United States chose a time when major internet players and users were up in arms against the SOPA/PIPA legislation is an obvious ploy. They are showing the world that they don’t need more legislation than they already have. Why then are we all being riled up and distracted by the SOPA shenanigans? Probably so we don’t notice how incredibly awful the US presidential candidates are. Too late, we already looked, and are universally traumatized.
The organizations that are able to harness the power of international law enforcement to protect their profitability - New Zealand and Great Britain are only two recent examples – are the same ones who own and control the majority of international broadcast media – still the most popular and widely-used source of news and information in the world. Where they choose to shine their spotlight is where we all inevitably end up focusing our attention – regardless of the “power” of social media – we are being spoon-fed flavour-of-the-day of their favorite brand of manure, and lapping it up like day-old pups.
Quite often I feel suspicious when a new event strikes a chord in my memory of some other news item, which takes on a different meaning in the light of the event. In this case, it is the statement I read on Wired.com on 12 Jan by General Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, that the US defense network is currently “not defensible”. I thought at the time that was a rather strange admission from a senior member of the US Military. Why would anyone advertise your vulnerability to the world like that, much less the head of the NSA? Now I see it as one way to explain the apparent ease of “Anonymous” being able to DDOS the FBI website, in addition to other, as-yet unreported events, potentially of greater magnitude.
I think we should also ask ourselves, with the benefit of hindsight, and the recent experience of how much time and effort it took to enact a major online event like the internet blackout – is the speed of the revenge attack on US government and media industry websites really feasible? I know I was half-expecting that Anonymous would step into action on January 18 and implement an “enforced blackout” on sites that didn’t join in, by using DDOS or defacements. That didn’t happen. I am still puzzled by the apparent lack of interest in the blackout operation from the blackout masters of the interwebs; the very group who should feel most at risk from internet censorship and be first in line to defend it were as inconspicuous on the big day as they were super-evident around the Kim Dotcom arrest. Perhaps they had been planning a major DDOS attack for 18 Jan and couldn’t get it together in time, but were able to nimbly harness those reserves on 19 Jan so their efforts were put to some use. No one is ever going to know, and I wouldn’t trust anyone who pretended that they did know.
For some time, since the advent of groups claiming to be part of Anonymous started posting names, addresses, emails, and credit card information, I have considered that Anonymous as an entity or a concept can be so easily infiltrated, misrepresented, subverted or abused, it has long past the point of usefulness or validity within the original framework of “internet defenders for the greater good” and has inexorably devolved into “internet vigilantes for the lulz”. The whole central pillar of Anonymous is anonymity: there can be no identifiable individuals representing Anonymous. Ever. Once that happened, Anonymous was polluted as far as I am concerned.
Here’s that Hollywood-style arrest story:
New Zealand police on Friday seized a pink Cadillac and a sawn-off shotgun, and froze millions of dollars in cash, after a raid on the fortified mansion of an Internet guru accused of online piracy.
Armed officers swooped on an Auckland property occupied by “Kim Dotcom”, whose website Megaupload.com is alleged by US authorities to be involved in one of the largest cases of copyright theft ever.
Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, a 37-year-old German [some say Dutch] citizen with New Zealand and Hong Kong residency, was denied bail with three other men on Friday when they appeared in an Auckland district court, police said.
According to New Zealand reports, Dotcom’s lawyer initially objected to media requests to take photographs and video inside the courtroom. But the accused said he did not mind “because we have nothing to hide”.
In a statement, police said they raided 10 Auckland premises, including the Megaupload founder’s property known as Dotcom Mansion, after liaising with US authorities.
In addition, police said NZ$11 million in cash held in New Zealand financial accounts was frozen pending the outcome of legal proceedings.
Detective Inspector Grant Wormald said the Megaupload founder tried to retreat to a fortified safe room when police arrived.
“Mr Dotcom retreated into the house and activated a number of electronic locking mechanisms,” he said.
“While police neutralised these locks he then further barricaded himself into a safe room within the house which officers had to cut their way into.
“Once they gained entry into this room they found Mr Dotcom near a firearm which had the appearance of a shortened shotgun — it was definitely not as simple as knocking at the front door.”
Dotcom and the three other arrested men — Dutchman Bram van der Kolk and Germans Finn Batato and Mathias Ortmann — were denied bail and are scheduled to reappear in court on Monday.
US authorities are seeking their extradition to the United States.
They accuse the Megaupload website, which allows downloading of large files, of generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and causing “more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners”.
Its closure sparked retaliatory cyber-attacks from the “Anonymous” hacktivist group on the FBI and Justice Department websites, as well as music and recording industry websites seen as supporting the clampdown.
No mention of the many gigabytes of user-created content that has now been taken offline, or whether it will be released to the owners. All premium users of MegaUpload who used it to store their own content have effectively now had that material stolen by the FBI acting on behalf of the anti-piracy lobby.
In the wake of all this, don’t you sometimes feel like you are just being entertained in a rather patronizing – yet equally dramatic and titillating - way? Do take a look at the first link below, which surely offers a reasonably simple explanation for why MegaUpload was really shut down.
- MegaUpload Mega Sues Universal Over Mega Song Censorship (gizmodo.co.uk)
- Very disturbing news today, but is everything as it seems on the surface? (michigantelephone.wordpress.com)
- Allegedly fraudulent Universal DMCA takedown notice raises questions about DMCA, SOPA (teleread.com)
- Feds to Megaupload – Upload This! (laf.ee)
- Prolexic Revenues Increase 45 Percent in 2011 (prweb.com)
- DDoS Attacks Spell ‘Gameover’ for Banks, Victims in Cyber Heists (krebsonsecurity.com)
- Hollywood’s Anti-Piracy Campaign Runs Aground – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Harassment directed at anti-piracy act’s backers (msnbc.msn.com)
- Internet war begins : FBI takes down Megaupload. Anonymous takes down FBI (hoowstuffworks.blogspot.com)
- Megaupload down?! and my view on this whole SOPA/PIPA . (frozen101.wordpress.com)
- Why the feds smashed Megaupload (arstechnica.com)