Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vic Toews feeds trolls everybody!

Toews feeds trolls
By Jesse Brown
Tuesday, March 27,
Adrian Wyld CP Images

They never forgive, they never forget. Vic Toews should expect them.

Our Public Safety Minister painted a giant digital bullseye on himself today by continuing his silly crusade against an organization that doesn’t really exist. “Anonymous,” he told a Parliamentary committee, “is a threat to us all”. You could almost hear the lulz.

One has to feel a bit sorry for Toews. Few middle-aged technology neophytes have so successfully summoned the dregs of the Internet as Toews did when he told Canadians that they either stood with his Internet snooping bill or they stood “with the child pornographers.” Quicker than you could say “Beetlejuice,  Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice,” Toews was dealing with a tell-all Twitter account and a threatening ultimatum video from Anonymous. In it, Toews is asked to withdraw Bill C-30 and resign, or face the consequences.

As it turned out, the @vikileaks30 Twitter account was the partisan work of a Liberal staffer, who fumbled the ball by accessing his account through a Parliamentary computer. He was traced, exposed and forced to resign. Emboldened, Toews is now pursuing a far more nebulous foe- the “group” that posted that nasty video. He doesn’t know how to proceed, but asks for the help of the police and of “experts” to help him gain satisfaction. He won’t get it, but may end up with more than he asked for.

My instinct is to mock, but instead, I will educate. Vic, if you’re reading, here’s how it works:
  • Anonymous is not a group. There’s no clubhouse, no membership fees, no secret handshake. Anyone can drop in and participate for a moment and then leave without a trace. Members have no persistent identities, even to each other. Anonymous is better described as an online culture. Or just, y’know, this thing that happens.
  • The threatening ultimatum that scared you so might have been whipped up in 10 minutes by a 10 year old. As chilling as they seem, these “official” Anonymous videos are trivial to make, often created by inputting a few sentences into a text-to-speech program and laying it over stock footage with scary movie-trailer music. Thousands of these videos have been created, lobbing threats at everyone from NATO to Justin Bieber.
  • Usually nothing happens as a result of these videos. Each is a piece of bait, and most wriggle away on the hook and die un-nibbled. But if a target responds and throws some punches into the air- then it’s on. The more high-profile the victim, the bigger their response; the more attention it gets, the better.
  • Video “operations” then become full-on “raids,” and soon thousands of faceless goons the world over come at you with whatever they can. This usually means hacking, mockery, and sending pizzas to your house. It can feel like you’re under physical attack, but it’s usually all just zeros and ones. Ignore it, and it goes away. Lean into it, and it never ends.
  • Fighting Anonymous is impossible by design, but it’s funny to Anonymous when someone tries. The more laughs (lulz) a target creates, the longer a raid lasts.
This could be a long one.

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown

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