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Stopping SOPA: Anonymous Talks Motives, Aims and Hurting Sony

January 4, 2012 Written by Sebastian Moss

Early last year, internet ‘hacktivists’ Anonymous attacked Sony for pursuing legal action against PS3 hackers, ultimately bringing down the PSN and several Sony sites. But just when you thought the phrase “Anonymous vs Sony” would be relegated to 2011 recap posts, the group once again declared war on the Japanese corporation. This time, the group was protesting Sony’s support of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), something that could potentially limit free speech and lead to mass internet censorship. Will Anonymous’ actions actually help stop the act being passed, should they protest the ‘unconstitutional’ bill, or are they simply acting rashly and making things worse – all while attacking innocent Sony employees and unrelated individuals? To find out, we spoke to a member of Anonymous in an extensive interview.

Full disclosure: In the interest of impartiality, it’s only fair to point out that I don’t personally support SOPA, and believe it will harm free speech, as well as human rights. However, I do worry about whether Anonymous’ actions could actually help the anti-SOPA cause by showing the dangers of the web to its supporters. It’s also important to point out that the viewpoints expressed above and below do not necessarily reflect those of PSLS or its staff, for, as a free speech publication, we do not censor the viewpoint of individual writers.

As Anonymous have no central leadership, we could only interview a member of the group who is involved in planning the attack on Sony. As he (gender assumed) discusses the attack, he requested to be anonymous from Anonymous and has asked to use the pseudonym Zerit instead of his online pseudonym. Several times I reference a “plan”, this is a web-based document written by OpSony detailing how they’re going to attack Sony, and something that was remarkably easy for me to obtain. I also reference other IRC chats with other members that were off the record.

PSLS: To start: Can you describe your position at Anon? (obviously without incriminating yourself)

Zerit: I generally lurk the IRC’s, and help with anything that needs doing. No one assigns positions, in fact there really are none in anon. You’re just helping, or not.

Were you involved in last year’s OpSony?

I was not involved in the hacking part no, I did offer suggestions during planning and helped smooth things over with different people.

There’s over a hundred pro-SOPA companies. Why is Sony such a focus?

Because Sony is a large electronics/gaming company/music company. A lot of the stuff on YouTube could get taken down if they chose to support it and it passed.

How many people would you say are actively involved in the Op?

Well as you can see there are 92 in the IRC, and countless more doing other things… Honestly I don’t know but I would estimate anywhere from 150-2,000. Anonymous is much bigger than most people realize. I promise you that there over 3 million Anonymi.

From OpSony’s plan:

On Sony.com we will have our fun. We will post a press release and enable the download of the complete discography of every Sony Music artist.

Why should music artists who signed contracts with Sony years before SOPA existed suffer?

Our goal is not to make the artists suffer, or anyone but the stingy 1%… Also, last time I checked they have concerts, tours, and generally people don’t go to Sony to buy music anyways, they go to iTunes or use Mp3rocket.

Yeah, but they’ll go there if they hear the site is giving away music for free

They can already get music for free easy enough. Plus it’s mostly in torrent form, and a lot of people don’t know how to use that.

What about the Sony executives who aren’t actually involved in SOPA? I saw the CC details on a PlayStation employee being passed around.

The executives are the ones that make these decisions, they shouldn’t have supported SOPA in the first place. Also we don’t randomly use that info, we plan on using it to ship the soon to be free goods to wherever needed. I.E. ship them to the occupy movements.

“No meme-usage except for in The Preplan. We need to be intimidating and we need to appear like some elite hacker force to the news channels and to the nation’s technically illiterate grandmothers. We need to strike fear into them.” – So you want to cause fear among normal citizens?

No.

But that’s from the OpSony plan.

We want to appear more professional, we want to scare the corporations, and let them know we are a force to be reckoned with.

Recently Anonymous has been getting more organized and mature, we are evolving, having more fun, and being more effective.

This is arguably the most organized Operation so far.

The use of intimidation in the pursuit of political aims, then?

No the use of looking professional so as not to be treated like a bunch of little kids.

I saw one IRC member on OpSony, who had openly done a lot of dox work, mention that they were born in 1996, when discussing Sony musicians.

Point?

It might be fair to say that you could end up being treated like a bunch of little kids if a bunch of little kids are part of the group.

Not everyone is that young, most people are 18 or older actually. Plus we have proved again and again that we can do things, adults cannot.

Now this Op is rather different to last year’s in that Sony is the target, consumers aren’t. Do you think the original Op was handled incorrectly?

I think so, I think that we hurt the common people and we learned from that and the BART protests… as I said, Anonymous is evolving, more efficient, and more dangerous to those who dare do wrong.

Anonymous don’t forgive or forget – what’s the point of companies/individuals who have been targeted changing their ways, from their perspective?

We don’t forgive your mistakes, nor do we forget them. We keep tabs on our targets, almost without even meaning to. If you’re a “Repeat Offender” shall we say? You shall be punished more harshly than before. We do not forgive or forget is very flexible and can mean many things, that is just one of them.

Ah, I see

Again, nothing in Anonymous is “official” for Anonymous is not “official,” some things are just more commonly agreed upon then others.

SOPA could lead to internet censorship, including the alteration and taking down of sites. To protest, Anon is planning on altering and taking down Sony’s sites. Couldn’t that be seen as hypocritical?

It could, but we are not trying to limit their free speech, we are trying to make their profit margin go down. If we wanted to limit their free speech we would take their Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else they use.

Well you are still trying to limit their free speech right to support SOPA.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall

That is not the point to this operation, our main objective is to make Sony lose enough money where they not only withdraw support to SOPA but actively oppose it. Everyone should have free speech, however there is a fine line. If what a few say hurts the rights of millions of users, then a few hours or days of silence is a small price to pay. But again, we are not intending to take away their communication.

But like you said before, most customers don’t use Sony.com. People don’t go to Sony sites to buy Sony stuff. Do you think that it’ll really hurt their revenue that much?

Yes considering we plan on making all the stuff free, then for the shipping we will use the CEO’s CC info, not to mention we are out in the real world, and it only takes one whisper for it to go viral that now you can get a TV for only the price of shipping.

But it’s not as if Sony are actually going to ship the TVs.

Except it is mostly automated and we are in the process of making sure Sony is locked out.

You can’t stop them calling their distribution centers though.

True, but how long until they notice, not to mention, then they won’t be able to ship any out and they will lose money.

Would you like Sony to go bankrupt?

No.

Why do you think we’re not targeting PSN? If we bankrupt them it will hurt consumers a lot. Sony is used by a lot of people, and overall a good company, they just have some bad policies at the moment.

But consumers will lose out from a poorer Sony. It slightly damages the economy, it means they have to lower their R&D spending, it means less products.

Sony is not the economy, it is a part, yes, but not a huge part. And if they decrease quality, naturally consumers will leave for alternatives meaning even less money for Sony.

OK, moving back to broader questions. Many of the proponents of SOPA say that the internet is a lawless, uncivilized place, and that piracy is an example of the rampant crime on the web. Surely hacking and doxing simply re-enforces those claims? Is Anoymous really making things better?

Saying the internet is lawless and uncivilized is BS. On every site but the deepest pits of the web, there are rules and mods. Even on 4chan!

As to the other question… I promise that there is more crime in real then on the internet. Crime is just more obvious on the internet. And yes we are.

Of course, and murder is far worse than hacking. But by emphasizing the crime on the internet, you’re helping fuel public opinion that the web is a dangerous place.

Anonymous is not going away, and we will continue to develop faster than any computer security can, and we will stand up to injustice. Last time I checked, the constitution is above every law congress makes.

I don’t think that’s public opinion at all. It all depends upon where you’re going. Like in real life, there are bad neighborhoods.

But in real life, whenever there is a terrorist attack, politicians are able to quickly pass laws and legislation that limit free speech, riding a wave of public fear. This time, people are trying to pass laws and legislation that limits internet free speech. As a response, you are doing something that could loosely be described as terrorism.

Last time I checked the purpose of #OpSony isn’t to make them do what we want with fear, it’s with quarterly reports. So it’s more of a protest.

But fear will be a side effect. Your own plan, and numerous IRC chats that I’ve had publicly and privately, show that Anonymous aims to get a lot of publicity from the protests/hacks. To use the quote again

“We need to appear like some elite hacker force to the news channels and to the nation’s technically illiterate grandmothers”

It’s fair to say that if you do achieve this, people who are technically illiterate, who don’t know entirely what SOPA is, or who Anonymous are, will simply think “an ungoverned group of people with tremendous power to cause mayhem on the web,” thus breeding fear, and helping fuel the pro-SOPA, pro-controlled internet agenda, no matter how flawed it is.

Fear is a side effect yes, but terrorism is using force to hurt innocents on purpose to get what you want. We never want to hurt innocents.

The official definition of terrorism is using terror to push a political or moral agenda. Bombs, killing etc, doesn’t have to be a part of it.

Those who are technically illiterate won’t be able to register to vote or send letters to their representatives. Plus the Reps don’t represent us anyways, except on election day.

But Reps do stuff to gain favor of the public, even when it’s not near the election. If the news starts reporting on Anonymous attacks, public opinion could sway towards stopping those attacks, making the internet a “safer place.” The largest internet stories of 2011 were probably Anonymous attacks.

Anonymous has been called an “internet hate machine,” and the sheep can believe that if they want but no matter what, Anonymous still delivers. We would like for the public to side with us, and they will, as long as we keep fighting the fight for their internet and rights.

Also, people are naturally curious, they will look up stuff about Anonymous and see the truth, and then most likely, they will join us. Those who outright lie too often shall be taken care of.

But the mass media will present you as terrorists, SOPA supporters will be able to say “we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” and gain support for what is otherwise a flawed and unpopular bill. We’re still seeing laws passed that limit human rights due to post-9/11 fear.

Yes we know this, and we have already been presented by certain mass media sources… *cough* Fox News *cough* as terrorists. And we laugh at this wild accusation. Plus you forget that we are giving the people free movies and music, they will more likely see us as robin hoods.

But you already said that movies and music are easy to get anyway.

True, but not movies out in the movie theaters… Or new movies like that.

So innocent directors and screenwriters will be hurt? They’re not part of the 1%

Again, that’s not the point here. We don’t want to hurt anyone but the Sony executives, and Sony’s bank accounts. Unfortunately this plan is not perfect, and I don’t claim it is, I admit there will be unfortunate losses by some who were not intended targets. And we shall apologize for this.

Well you could still be effective without releasing new movies…

Too late, already underway. Besides they won’t lose much.

Can you give an example of some of those movies?

Jack and Jill [removed torrent link], Arthur Christmas [removed torrent link], The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009 Swedish version) [removed torrent link] The Adventures of Tintin [removed torrent link]

Taking the largest movie there, Tintin - that was only co-financed by Sony.

They will still lose money.

So will Paramount, so will the actors, the screenwriters, the extras.

Not as much.

Paramount had a bigger investment in the film, they both co-produced, but Paramount spent $30 million on pre-production.

Will you look at that… they support it too… that’s convenient. Not meant, but convenient.

“Not meant” – that’s the point, this research wasn’t done before. And I’m only using Paramount as an example. Films have hundreds of smaller investors, and smaller cogs that will all suffer. Couldn’t it be said that you are acting recklessly just to be seen as the next Robin Hood?

Again, plans not perfect, no choice of action is, but it hurts a lot less then shutting down PSN again. Plus I promise the damage won’t be very much to these smaller companies. What’s really gonna hurt Sony is that their products either can’t be shipped or they’re free.

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