It really was only a matter of time until the collective hive mind of Anonymous got whipped up into a fury over the latest censorship news in Australia. What with our strange stance on certain female bodily functions and minimum restrictions on their bust sizes to even being so bold as to ask the almighty Google themselves to censor Youtube (and comparing us to China in the process, seriously Conroy are you that bonkers?). The media is already in a tizzy over all these issues but of course the stand alone complex that is Anonymous will take any opportunity to strike at the heart of the beast and they did so with Operation Titstorm yesterday morning:
Several Australian government websites were slowly recovering Wednesday hours after the online prankster group Anonymous unleashed a massive distributed denial-of-service attack to protest the country’s evolution toward internet censorship.
The group, which previously brought down Scientology’s websites has also undertaken a host of other online pranks. It dubbed the new attack “Operation Titstorm” to protest the government’s move to require the filtering of pornography that uses adult actors if they appear underage. Violent material targeting children is also to be censored.
“No government should have the right to refuse its citizens access to information solely because they perceive it to be unwanted,” the e-mail said. “The Australian government will learn that one does not mess with our porn. No one messes with our access to perfectly legal (or illegal) content for any reason.”
It was just over 5 months ago that Anonymous launched their first attack against the government and to be honest my opinions on the attacks haven’t changed. Whilst this certaintly has accomplished the goal of getting more attention on the issue using such nefarious means is both childish and damaging to people who are fighting the course through legitimate channels. Luckily many of the media outlets only go so far as to say the attackers called themselves Anonymous and list their various pranks. Heaven help us if a real journalist did some investigation and made the connection back to 4chan and all the inaccurate connections that implies.
What did suprise me though was the reaction at my workplace, which spurred a quite intelligent discussion about the matter. Don’t get me wrong we’re all quite tech savvy but my reaction amongs the general populace when it comes to talking about the Internet filter in Australia is usually one of either misinformation or complete disdain. When the proposal was first introduced I spent a good hour explaining to the in-laws how damaging it would be. With 2 of them being members of the Australia Federal Police force it was even harder as they have had to deal with real world implications of what the filter would attempt to stop. To their credit though once the facts were laid out to them (I think the tipping point was how easy it was to circumvent) they did come around and are now at least questioning what benefit the filter will provide.
The sad thing is that an attack like this generated more press in a day than most of the No Clean Feed campaigns have done in their entire lifetime. I still believe that the grass roots approach is the best legal method of garnering attention but when a collective hive mind can flood a couple servers and in doing so the newspapers as well it makes you look at all the effort put into these legitimate campaigns with a twinge of frustration. Sure our initial volleys certaintly did damage to the proposal (by all means it was meant to be implemented now) but few of us made waves comparable to that of Operation Titstorm.
I can’t condone these attacks yet I feel that I also can’t condem them either. The more publicity the Internet Filter gets the more likely it is to go down in flames however every one of these attacks is yet another rhetorical weapon to use in the fight to get it implemented. Only time will tell whether the end justified the means in this case and I hope our fight won’t suffer because of it.
That won’t stop me from giggling at the name though 🙂
Back in the early days of the Internet we didn’t have things such as Youtube or Facebook, so we had to make do with such wonderful technologies as good old HTTP and Usenets. The Usenets in particular were pretty niche, and most people wouldn’t know of them, let alone use them. It really was a golden age for the Internet, since you really needed to know what you were doing in order to get something online and you had to look pretty hard to find and cross over to the wrong side of the tracks.
These days with it being so easy to set up a website or blog anyone can throw up a page or just perform a quick search to find what their looking for. Modern day search engines do a good job of filtering out most of the chaff, but when you’re looking for something obscure it’s very easy to get something that looks genuine but is nothing but utter dribble. I remember a good example from a while back on the Holy Grail. A teacher of mine knew quite a bit about the subject and decided to see what material was available. Out of the myriad of sites he found about 2 where factually correct, 3 were misguided and the majority were plain wrong or bordering on delusional.
Sometimes however, people are drawn to this kind of insanity. Whether it is the freedom of anonymity or just a desire to cause and experience choas, places on the Internet exist for those among us who seek to see the taboo side of our humanity. I make no secret that I am one of those people, and I’ve spent many hours seeing what us humans get up to when all the rules are left at the door.
Probably the most famous example of a place such as this is 4chan. Whilst on the surface it would appear to be a clucky little clone of the Japanese imageboard 2Channel delving deep into its recesses shows a dark underbelly. In the early days of this board it was particularly famous for its /b channel, which is void of a general topic of discussion and is deemed to be “random”. It is in here that people from all over the world post things that would normall be taboo, wrong or downright illegal. It is also the gathering ground of the online group Anonymous, who delight in causing mischief for corrupted organisations or just the general public. Strangely enough it has even started a trend, with other sites carrying the *chan identifier popping up all over the places wishing to emulate its success (or even drive deeper into deprativity).
It is interesting to note the places that because of their size, attract a great number of people who aren’t there for the board’s purpose. The BodyBuilding website appears normal on the surface but digging down into their forums will show that their largest forum, Misc, has the most threads (in excess of 800,000) and as a consequence the most rubbish. Whilst it isn’t as removed from reality as the likes of the *chan boards, due to the sheer volume of people on there it attracts people who aren’t interested in body building at all, and sometimes even those who are at the end of their rope.
A more regulated but none the less interesting place to visit is the Something Awful and its forums. What makes this place interesting is its dedication to comedic material, which sometimes leads it to strange and whacky places. Over the years it progressed from a personal site for the creator “Lowtax” to a bustling news site with a set of forums renowned for their online shenanigans. Whilst it is probably closer to the right side of the railroad then the other sites I have mentioned you can still see some people using the freedom of anonymity to spew forth their misguided opinions at each other.
Often I would wonder as to why I would visit these places, why I would revel reading the vulgar reality of the human condition. That was, until someone else summed it for me:
Lampkin: The horror of the age. The great ugly material. The cloak of deceit.
Apollo: The truth. Hmph. Kind of overrated, I guess. You know, when I was nine, maybe ten, my grandfather… he would wave me over. And he’d do this all the time. And then he’d say, uh, “Lee, be a good boy. Just don’t be too good.”
Lampkin: Everybody has demons. Them, Baltar, you, me. Even the machines. The law is just a way of exorcising them. That’s what your father’s father told me. You want to know why I hated him? Because he was right.
Apollo: So you hated him because he was right, and I hated the law because it was wrong. Because of what… Of what it put him through. I mean, he defended the worst of the worst. I remember reading about him. The outrage. Helping murderers go free. What I don’t understand is why he put himself through all that abuse.
Lampkin: You think he gave a flying frak? Joe Adama cared about one thing. Understanding why people do what they do. Why we cheat our friends, why we reward our enemies. Why we go to war, sacrificing our lives for lost causes. Why we build machines in the hope of correcting our flaws and our shortcomings. Why we forgive, defying logic and the laws of nature with one stupid little act of compassion. We’re flawed. All of us. I wanted to know why, so I did what he did. I spend my life with the fallen. The corrupt. The damaged. Look at you, you were so ready to get on that Raptor with me today. The bad boy, the prodigal son.
Bonus points to those who recognised that exchange from the TV series Battlestar Galactica.
Sometimes, to truly understand ourselves we have to delve into the most extreme parts of our humanity. It’s just amusing that the internet, which was created for only one thing has given us this opportunity.