Did DOJ Provoke Anonymous On Purpose?

from the conspiracy-theory-time dept

I’ve been on record for a while now that I think the strategy of doing DDoS attacks on websites that people don’t like is a bad idea, that will lead to backlash. Though, I will admit that I underestimated their effectiveness in some cases. Indeed, even as the Anonymous DDoS attacks on various targets in response to the Megaupload takedown is getting a ton of attention, I’m still convinced it’s a bad idea long-term. I should be clear that I understand the response. Also, the response is not a surprise. If we’ve learned anything over the last few months, it’s that large segments of the internet are exceptionally frustrated with attempts to censor speech online — and when you get that many people frustrated, and then poke them in the eye with a big stick, it’s not a surprise that they might react.

Over at News.com, Molly Wood is suggesting that DOJ did this all on purpose — including the timing of the release — in order to provoke just such a response. This serves multiple purposes for the government. It gives them the chance to make the (obviously bogus and laughable) argument that the wider protests were done by this same group. But, it also gives DOJ and law enforcement the chance to go even further, and use this as an excuse to crack down online and put people in jail. It also gives a (again, bogus) reason to pass far-reaching cybersecurity legislation. The end result could be a lot worse.

Supporters of these actions may claim that it’s the only way to be heard. But I’m not convinced that’s true. What happened Wednesday showed that there are ways to be heard without resorting to tactics that can be described as vandalism. I don’t think it’s fair to call it vandalism — as I’ve said that I believe that such actions are a lot more like a digital sit-in. But I’m just not sure it’s productive. I’m sure it feels good to vent… but the end result may not be productive at all.

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Comments on “Did DOJ Provoke Anonymous On Purpose?”

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MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

That’s good enough for them. The IP maximalists equate the actual issue of a woman dying from counterfeit drugs she bought on internet or a pedophile accessing child porn online with a thirteen year old girl sharing the latest Justin Beiber song with people online.

Wait…maybe the third scenario should be outlawed, but only because it’s Beiber…

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Black Flags

Hey, the Federal Government of America has been doing ‘black flag’/inciting incident operations for well over 100 years.

So, if history is any kind of proof–yes, the DOJ provoked this response on purpose in order to start a war.

For historical perspective, see ‘Bay of Tonkin incident’, sinking of the Lusitania, etc, etc, ad nauseaum. There’s really a huge list of just such ‘inciting’ incidents.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

(a) the incorrect response and (b) "cybersecurity" legislation

(a) I think Anonymous’s response is a bad move: not only is it ineffective, it’s likely to be seized upon by filth like Chris Dodd as justification for his well-paid attempts to censor the Internet. A much better response would be to launch an escalating, world-wide boycott of all movies: no tickets, no purchases, no rentals. Hollywood only has one value: money. (Occasionally they claim to about art and culture. They’re lying.) Hitting them in their multi-millionaire wallets will be far more effective than DoS’ing an unimportant website.

(b) Of course, all “cybersecurity” legislation is worthless theater, conducted at the behest of lobbyists for the firms that are lined up like pigs at the trough for federal/state/local dollars. You don’t secure systems and networks through legislation, any more than you do via certifications, checklists, or any other nonsense. You secure them by hard work, including designing security in from the beginning and not compromising it merely because it’s inconvenient.

Loki says:

Re: Re: (a) the incorrect response and (b) "cybersecurity" legislation

Personally, I’ve been boycotting them for years. Haven’t purchased an RIAA album in about six years now. Don’t really watch TV anymore (haven’t even owned one in about five years now, although various housemates have), and I’m not really missing it. I do admit I’ve gone to the theater a few times this year (my first outings in about five years). I don’t buy anything from Sony (if I can possibly avoid it). And to be honest I miss none of it. The big content industries could literally disappear tomorrow, and I wouldn’t notice a difference to my daily life.

Avantare says:

Re: Re: Re: (a) the incorrect response and (b) "cybersecurity" legislation

I haven’t purchased any music at all since the Napster days. I have more entertaining things to spend money on, like computer games. I go to concerts now. More expensive but I feel WAY more satisfied. I love(ed)going to the Silver Screen but after this, I’m done. I have Netflix (Yes, I know they get a cut), Hulu, etc. The past few years I’ve only been watching 4-5 hours of TV a year. I ditched it entirely. Saving $80 a month now as a result. Pink Floyd said it best; “13 channels of shit on the TV to choose from.” But now it’s how many? Over 500??? WTF !!!


The Logician says:

Re: Re:

You assume our votes still have any meaning or power, Adam, but I do not believe that is the case. Our officials are bought and the election system is rigged such that only the favored candidates have any chance. The voting machines are easily hacked and the companies behind them refuse to release the source code so that it might be analyzed and the vulnerabilities closed. This indicates that these broken machines are abused to skew the results. Votes are also bought, made up, and in other ways obtained besides the normal way of earning them. The elections are, in fact, decided by the electoral college, not the popular vote. Our vote is merely an innaccurate, corrupted metric.

What would truly be interesting is if no one voted. At all. As in, no one across the country went to the ballots on election day. At all. How, then, would the facade of democracy continue to be pushed if we the people refuse to participate? The facade would drop, and the process would halt, exposing the corruption within it for all to see.

Or Anonymous could do more than simply take down websites. Why do they stop with that, when they could do so much more? Deprive these companies of their money by penetrating their accounts, and they would be crippled indefinitely. Without money, they have no power. Expose their hidden files and communications for everyone to see, hack into the broadcast transmissions so that the signal by Anonymous in which they explain the truth of what’s going on overrides that of all regular channels and thus, the large majority of people would be unavoidably exposed to it.

In the end, conventional tactics will only take us so far. Invertebrate politicians cannot be trusted to support our goals over the long term. If the masses can be convinced, however, and convinced fully, of what’s really happening, they will rise up. We must stir the sleeping giant that is our populace beyond what has already been done, until what has happened with the protests appears as nothing compared to what is to come.

Suja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

yep, too dumb and shallow to bother

even if you where to round up every willing, intelligent person with more depth than a sheet of paper (of which i would be one) and have them all united, we would still be outnumbered a million to one by sheeple and idiots

the only way to win is become a better shepard than the current ones in power, maybe i should just try and become the next hitler, it seems to be the only way to get people to do anything

Suja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Or Anonymous could do more than simply take down websites. Why do they stop with that, when they could do so much more? Deprive these companies of their money by penetrating their accounts, and they would be crippled indefinitely. Without money, they have no power. Expose their hidden files and communications for everyone to see, hack into the broadcast transmissions so that the signal by Anonymous in which they explain the truth of what’s going on overrides that of all regular channels and thus, the large majority of people would be unavoidably exposed to it.

i’d join in on that, i don’t even know how to hack but i am very willing to learn how for such a cause

but the problem is i would be one of the handful willing to do so, it is nearly impossible to get people to rise, unite for a cause or do just about anything

maybe if you posted it on 4chan maybe some of the bored trolls might try to do it, but that’s not a guarantee either

there is no greater deterrent of effort and breeder of content indifference than knowing the cause you seek requires more than you to accomplish, yet nobody will help or care, all stuck in their own little mires of effort-devoid, content indifference

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That is the problem you always see, the paradox where people often only act if they think they can actually do something. People do not want to stand alone and fight by themselves and so they do not stand. The funny part is that if everyone who felt that way stood at once they would be a true force.

The problem is always building that initial momentum. I am hopeful these recent protests are the start of just that though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think this is a BIG political miscalculation by Obama/DOJ. If they seriously think that the 8 million people who just told them to knock this shit tf off are going to change their position because the MPAA/DOJ websites got DOSed they are severely mistaken and will pay for it majorly at the polls.

Here’s where you’re wrong Adam. The target is not the 8 million, but the representatives who caved and the constituents who sat by. The latter, when faced with a bill that is about cyber-terrorism will counteract the force of the 8 million. It also changes the debate from free speech to (cyber) terrorism. The opponents of a anti cyber-terrorism debate will be depicted as radicals (pointing at the Anonymous DDoS attacks and those cheering them on) or the patchouli oil wearing malcontents of Occupy Wall Street. The juvenile delinquents of Anonymous got played and in a breathtaking instant allowed the entire issue to be reframed.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can understand the response. You can do all the peaceful protest that you want, but if the government ignores or worse, goes even further (like they did with Occupy Wall Street) sooner or later factions of the protesters will take more extreme actions. Does this help or hurt the protesters?

Keep in mind that while Martin Luther King always preached peace, he also reminded the government that if they wouldn’t deal with him, they would have to deal with others like Malcolm X that might use other tactics that could include violence.

Cops bust heads or use pepper spray, sooner or later groups within the protester ranks will use violence also.

Anonymous Coward says:

not saying that what Anonymous re doing is the correct way to go about things but look at what had to be done to get Congress to take notice of the people and the industries outside of the entertainment industries. the law enforcement offices have totally ignored it so, a question is, what has to happen to make them listen as well? in not believing anything the entertainment industries say concerning ‘losses’, i dont believe that the average US citizen condones rampant ‘piracy’ but equally i dont think they back the actions that the DoJ, ICE and others are taking either. running roughshod around the world with little or no consideration to peoples rights, country borders or anything else, all in the name of defeating ‘file sharing’ is not only ridiculous, it is going to end very badly! another question is, will they be so keen, so brave, to go to China, Iran, N. Korea or similar country and act so brazen? i very much doubt it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, since we are in tin-foil hat mode, why can’t we assume that the attacks were perpetrated by the government itself, and then they pinned the blame on Anonymous?

Then again, we know nothing about anonymous. Anonymous could be some puppet group created by the government to pull off these stunts that undermine the anti-SOPA cause (among other things, including giving Microsoft’s biggest adversary in the console space a bad name).

And now, I gotta put my tin-foil hat down, because it is already starting to catch fire.

Manfred Manfriend says:

So then what???

I agree with the general meme that defacing posters (xkcd reference) is a waste of time and possibly even counterproductive. So what then are we supposed to do?

Boycotting doesn’t work–the numbers simply get tweaked to show anyone not buying the latest Big Media crap is simply pirating it.

Voting? [twenty minutes of laughter later] Enough…please ….heh-heh-hee-hahahahah my …hee-hee….sides can’t take it any…more…

So what then? What can be done that will produce results, not ‘noble failures’ because clearly what we have been doing isn’t working.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: So then what???

“Boycotting doesn’t work–the numbers simply get tweaked to show anyone not buying the latest Big Media crap is simply pirating it.”

Do it anyways. They can’t survive long if no one pays them. They will go down kicking and screaming and will try to take us with them, but all we have to do is survive. If we can do that, the world will be a better place.

Do not buy, do not download, do not promote the beast. #StarveTheBeast

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Re: Re: So then what???

I couldn’t agree more. The RIAA and MPAA have the clout they do because of the wealth of Big Content. Big Content has the wealth it does because we gave it to them. We need to stop funding our enemies.

This will be rough on the creative people who are unfortunately indentured to Big Content, but that’s too bad. Like everyone else, they need to pick a side to be on, and if they choose our side, I have no doubt we’ll help them out by buying their work. But anybody who sides with Big Content is choosing to share their fate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Boycotting

Boycotting RIAA and MPAA or any other organization that is blaming piracy for lost sales is fueling their arguement.

Their sales drop = lost sales to piracy

They have no intention of figuring things out. They are blaming consumers instead. They want to legislate our consumption of media so it’s them and nothing else.

Don’t you find it strange that MegaUpload really did have a legit business plan and their CEO was replaced a month ago to someone who had support for it?

The “takeover” deserved a response that obviously wasn’t going to happen in the news. I can understand why Anon chose the sites they did but for all their work, it made little difference to the public.

Without the public, there is no debate. I wish Anon had chosen their targets better and had put that much work into something that was more demonstrative to the average person.

And it may have been that this was what Anon could do, which was better than nothing.

I just wished the average person had a better understanding of the MegaUpload “takeover” because I doubt they’d agree to the U.S. setting and enforcing laws for the entire world.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So then what???

I can’t go along with that; nor do I think it’s necessary. A sufficiently-widespread, sufficiently-persistent economic boycott should do the trick: the key is convincing people that no, they really don’t need to go see whatever garbage Batman movie is coming out next or buy whatever garbage Bieber album is being issued. They need to (gasp!) actually give up something, make a tiny little sacrifice — and then stick with it. This is difficult, especially in US, where we want what we want when we want it and are very reluctant to postpone (let alone give up) gratification of our wishes.

There are millions of books in the libraries (and online and used bookstores), there are hundreds of thousands of free movies online (and in used video stores), there is a ridiculous amount of free music online (and in used record/CD shops). One could spend a lifetime exploring all of this and STILL not even get through a fraction of it. There’s simply no need to buy the crap being produced by Big Content. Ever.

Go see an independent film. Go see a band, and buy their CD right there — so that 100% of the money goes into their pockets and 0% goes to Big Content. Buy an author’s books directly from them, heck, make sure you tell all these people that you’re buying from them to support their work and that you’ll keep doing it as long as they stay away from Big Content.

We can win this by voting with our wallets. We just need the will to make it happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So then what???

The Grammy’s are won by over 50% independents every year for awhile now. Only a fool would sign to a label anymore or someone who needs a lot of help with production (can’t sing). Some sign for distribution only but even that’s dying.

Hollywood? It’s rare there’s something that isn’t an over done stereo typed formula. Very rare. There’s very good independent productions – some streaming TV shows. Vodo is one company I know of. There’s tons of others.

I cut the cable and been off big labels for some time now. I love watcing reactions from people who had no idea that good stuff was out there – and it does make Hollywood seem bland.

Loki says:

Re: Re: So then what???

One of the ideas a friend of mine had that I’ve been trying to promote is for file sharing sharing site to “reverse promote” Big content.

For example, one of the things that helped drive MySpace in the early days was as a promotional tool for independent artists and labels (in fact I do believe Adele was discovered this way. Then big content moved in and plastered their content all over the site burying the independent stuff way in the back where you really had to dig to find it (in fact I think this media glut was one of the contributing factor in the decline of MySpace’s relevance).

The same went for eMusic. It used to be a site devoted exclusively to independent labels and artists (although some of the labels were still RIAA members). I was buying about 8-10 albums a month from them for a few years, until I had to give up my membership for a while for financial reasons (and I hated having to give up my grandfather status). By the time I was ready to go back, the major labels had signed their way into the service, and now when I surf everything is plastered with major label crap and I have to go digging to find independent music.

So I think the file sharing sites should do this in reverse. Clearly they aren’t going to be able to eliminate big content from their services, but they should set things up so the that independent material is featured front and center and do their best to bury Big Content as deep as they can.

After all, if the idea is to make Big Content irrelevant, we shouldn’t be making content so convenient for them should we? If the really want it so bad, make them work for it. In contrast, making it much more convenient and accessible for people to find alternatives to the big content industries also helps accelerate their demise.

Of course the idea is still a very rough work in progress, but we’ve been working to spread the idea so others can come up with ways to build upon it.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: So then what???

Here’s the thing — there is no single, silver-bullet action that will magically make everything all better. None. Not only that, but each individual action that we can take appears ineffective and miniscule.

However, taking a lot of actions, over a long period of time, is very effective. The major corrections and improvements that we have had before have never been fast or easy. Name it — abolition of slavery, voting rights, reproductive rights (including the right to use birth control itself), and so forth were all the result of a war fought over the long haul — generations. You must never stop fighting or stop remaining vigilant, even when it all seems pointless.

It is not today we’re fighting for, really. It’s not even tomorrow. It’s more like next week.

Violated (profile) says:


I am sure most of Anonymous already know this and stopped by nothing more than their own choice. A key PIPA vote only a few days away is one good reason.

Anonymous when it comes to DDoS is like a smoker trying to give up knowing it is bad for them. For weeks if not months they have been a good little activist group but then comes along that one really bad day when 4% of the Internet just got deleted. Like the smoker it becomes all “f**k it, I need this, it has to be done” or in Anonymous’s case “someone has to pay”

Fine one bad day and they deserve our understanding with no real harm done. They even had their anger covered on prime time news and many web stories so they certainly had their grievances heard.

At the end of the day though the point still stand that DDoS is bad for Anonymous and to give it up they have to do. Had they gone their usual route they would so be targeting New Zealand right now but I doubt that will happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: re

Don’t buy into the propaganda the state department is shoving down our throat about Megaupload. It all sounds big on paper. I think things will play out very differently in court

It will never make it that far. One of the more minor co-defendants will cut a deal and exchange for testimony that will sink the rest. I just saw this movie, it was called “Ninjavideo” I think.

What people should really worry about is what they had stashed in their cyberlockers. Now the government has the keys. So anyone with kiddie porn, libraries of infringing content, bank records from hidden offshore accounts, terrorist manuals, bomb making recipes, evidence of narcotic transactions, etc. should be shitting themselves.

Adam says:

Again disagree. Do you think the businesses and business people who used MegaUpload will be one bit sorry that the DOJ/MPAA got DOSd for a few hours? If anything this is going to cause a further backlash as the government just took down tons of legitimate business with no ability to recover it. You better believe the Republicans will make an issue of this in the general election.

Republicans on the whole are not beholden to Hollywood/IP. The southern and great plains states that skew heavily Republican could not give a flying flip about Hollywood’s IP rights. They dont get campaign donations from that crowd anyway and they will see this as a great opportunity to peel votes off of Obama/Democrats.

Also votes DO matter in the House of Representatives. Remember they get elected every two years which means they cant just rely on the “cheating” or big turnout of a Presidential election to stay in office, plus their offices can be beseiged as is what happened to my Rep to make him come out against it. This is why the House had a much more vehemently anti-SOPA stance then the Senate/White House.

Like I said, this is a bad bad move on the Obama Administration’s part PARTICULARLY if small businesses start bashing them for taking down their files AND the company even somewhat successfully fights back in court. That would be a massive blowup in the administration’s face.

KingFisher says:

Isn't resistance futile?

Well then what we, the common man supposed to do to keep from getting played by corrupt government and the entertainment industry? I’m really beginning to feel like I’m being assimilated with the borg.

Anonymous got played with the megaupload’s takedown, internet users have been played by the media company by using pirated p2p software that was produced BY THE BIG ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRIES? I feel like I’ve been played a total fool and I’m not happy. But there really isn’t much better places to go in the world either. Other places are just as bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sometimes you need to make a big incident to wake people up and change minds. Part of what made MLK’s civil disobedience protests so successful was the overreaction by southern racists to it, through brutal violent crackdowns on it & the media attention it received. The people who were attacked in those crackdowns knew that would happen, they even drew straws to see who the unlucky ones would be at the front of the line.

Does it always work? No, there’s times where you get lots of sympathetic attention but still fail (such as the massive protests/civil disobedience to Scott Walker’s Union Busting bill in Wisconsin).

anonymous says:

i really would like to know who it was that decided that doing whatever it takes to protect an industry that refuses to adapt to the digital age, to modern technology, to actually listening to customers, to giving those customers what they want, was worth the lengths that are being gone to, ie, really, really pissing off the rest of the world, to making the US just about the most despised nation on the planet, was worth it? whoever it was, must have the intellect of a rocking horse!

BoredBloke says:

Anonymous wasting time

If Anonymous wants to do something that matters, rather than just show off, they should direct their attacks a little bit better. Our obviously tech illiterate representatives probably have all kinds of documentation of their dirty laundry sitting on unprotected and poorly protected computers in their homes and offices. Anonymous should used their skills to get it, verify it, and share it with the world. Ditto the *IAA, I bet there’s some damning evidence of their misdeeds, bribing congressmen, cheating artists, and such, on their computers. Get it, analyze it, share it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I was all set to click the link to read the source article, then I remembered that CNET is owned by CBS, which is a SOPA supporter. So I can’t comment on the conspiracy theory.

However I somewhat do agree with you Mike that Anonymous’ DDOS responses are at least ineffectual. Is anyone going to care that witehouse.gov happens to go offline for a few hours? What does that really accomplish?

The Logician says:

The difficulty with organizing such a widespread boycott is that there would have to be a significant amount of the population involved in order for it to truly be effective. How will you get that many people educated and organized at at once? What methods will you use? How will you guarantee that such a widespread boycott will occur? I believe participation would have to be in the hundreds of millions before it could truly affect these companies. How do you plan to organize a boycott that large?

slarabee (profile) says:

I agree, so then what?

I agree with the Mike’s overall opinion that at the end of the day it is very likely that the DOJ will use this to justify further cyber laws that undermine privacy and freedom on the net but what else can be done?

The media reports on the Megaupload arrests verbatim from the press release for the DOJ and the media (controlled by the MPAA et al) never even question the allegations.

Megaupload is tried and convicted in the media already the actual legal process will be no more than a formality. The feds a have a very high conviction rate and so they will most likely win their case in court.

So now what?

What a mess.

Digitari says:


we the people , to form a more perfect Union…….

Have two choices,

1 boycott big content

2 Armed revolution against the Government

( the third Option is just roll over and take it up the ass from Both)

My powder is Dry but it’s a boycott I’ll try,

if that fails, it’s Politicians that will go up against the rails

this has Only just begun, but I will always have my gun

J.smaith says:


Step by step, DOJ is baiting those who they have the power to keep freedom alive. Capitalism and Communism rule this planet whether we like it or not. The corporations that we have made fat with our money are using services, like the DOJ/DHS as their Rooks and Knights in order to squeeze every cent they can. Their main advantage is the fact that the majority DEPEND on their products and/or services.
Until we can provide for ourselves and each other, (whether it be energy, communications, etc.), they will always keep Us bound. And they will eventually place whatever limitations and restrictions on the things we “purchase” and “own”. If it were up to them, they would charge us for every second we live, and every single breath we take! (Or we will be able to buy a YEAR’S worth of breaths for a 30% discount- ***if we agree to a minimum 5-year contract…lol)
We should spend less time flexing our muscles, and more time using them.

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