The self-proclaimed ethereal hacktivist collective known as Anonymous – or, more accurately, someone with a computer, an internet connection, a basic video editor and a voice synthesiser – has decided that Facebook should die.
In a YouTube video posted under the Anonymous banner and entitled Message from Anonymous: Operation Facebook, Nov 5 2011, a disembodied voice lets loose a burst of oratory which would do any repressive dictator in any book-burning tyranny proud:
If you are a willing hacktivist or a guy who just wants to protect the freedom of information then join the cause and kill Facebook for the sake of your own privacy.
The voice continues, warning you that:
Facebook knows more about you than your family.
For some Facebook users, that might well be true. But that’s not exactly Facebook’s fault. And it’s not inevitably the chilling thing the inhumanly-voiced commentator implies.
Firstly, Facebook only “knows” what you choose to tell it. If you want to tell Facebook more than you tell your parents, or your spouse, or your third cousin twice removed, then that should be your choice. And it should be your right. At least, your choice and right in any jurisdiction in which there is at least some personal freedom.
Secondly, what about the many people who have no or little family? If you’re an orphan, for example, or if you’re estranged from your family, does that disqualify you from using social networks because you don’t have a family who could possibly know more about you than your chosen friends?
Thirdly, what about the many lonely, disaffected or socially unadept people whose lives have been transformed for the better by services like Facebook? You can disagree with Facebook’s approach, and its underlying attitudes – as Naked Security sometimes pointedly does – but to aim to kill it off entirely to suit your own agenda is arrogant self-righteouness at best.
Interestingly, the synthetic voice has what might best be described as a Western Mid Atlantic Ocean accent – a mostly North American inflection but with a nod to UK Received Pronunciation.
There’s further evidence of Anglophilia in the date chosen.
05 November 1605 was the date Guy Fawkes was arrested in a cellar under the British parliament, in the company of a vast stash of gunpowder, a timepiece, an implement for lighting the fuse, and the intention to cause murder and mayhem on an enormous scale.
So there you have it.
The future of the internet, as envisaged by someone claiming to be an Anonymous hacktivist, is to be determined under the motto: “We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
What we are offered here is the concept of an internet regulated – and regulation is exactly what this latest crazy threat really amounts to – by a group that is apparently proudly named after a horde of pyschotic demons in the Christian Bible; has adopted the terminology of murder in its proposal; and eschews both forgiveness and forgetting altogether.
The inability to forgive or forget seems chillingly close to one of the criticisms levelled against Facebook in the call-to-arms video, namely that Facebook doesn’t “forget”, since it’s impossible – according to the video – to delete your information from Facebook.
(It certainly is difficult to delete stuff from Facebook, and almost impossible to purge stuff from The Cloud in general. But the video’s implication that Facebook deliberately keeps your data even when it actually claims to have removed it permanently is, in my opinion, both unfounded and unlikely.)
Apparently, then, it’s morally wrong for Facebook to be “unforgetting”, whilst for Anonymous, it is a badge of honour.
Worse still, can you imagine what law enforcement would look like in a neither-forgive-nor-forget dystopia? There could be no parole. No spent convictions. (That’s when an entry is removed from your criminal record so it becomes as though you never even went to court at all.) No more right to have your previous convictions withheld from the jury empanelled to judge you. No presumption of innocence after your first brush with the courts.
There wouldn’t be any room for mercy, so there wouldn’t be much point in remorse. One strike, and you’d be out.
Of course, in the Legion story as told in the Bible, the psychotic demons quickly end up drowned in the Sea of Galilee by their own uncontrolled and unfocused rage.
And even if you reject entirely any religious or spiritual significance in the story, and read it in a strictly sociopolitical light, you’ll struggle to interpret Jesus as the embodiment of Roman oppression and Legion as freedom fighters crushed by orders of The Government.
You’d definitely cast Legion as the bad guys, wouldn’t you say?
If you’re a Facebook user who doesn’t plan on helping to kill the service, but who simply wants security tips and advice on the latest threats, why not join our lively community – 118,000-strong and growing – on the Sophos Facebook page?