Someone claiming to be affiliated with the hacktivist collective Anonymous has posted a note online claiming to speak on behalf of other like-minded hacktivists and says they are withdrawing support for Wikileaks, over the cash-strapped whistleblowing website’s recent move to put a fundraising banner over much of the content on its website.
The note, posted Thursday evening, states that Anonymous won’t actively launch cyber attacks against Wikileaks, but will reveal compromising information about the group.
“We have been worried about the direction Wikileaks is going for sometime now,” the note, posted on the text-sharing website AnonPaste reads.
“In the past year the focus has moved away from actual leaks and the fight for freedom of information and concentrated more and more on Julian Assange and a rabid scrounging for money…
Anonymous has had enough. The conclusion for us is that Anonymous cannot support anymore what Wikileaks has become. We will NOT attack the web assets of WikiLeaks, as they are media. We do not attack media. Any future attack on the WikiLeaks servers attributed to Anonymous is a lie. But what we will do is cease from this day all support of any kind for WikiLeaks or Julian Assange…
No longer will Anonymous risk prison to supply material for WikiLeaks disclosures. Anonymous turns it’s back on WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has with it’s actions this past 48 hours betrayed Anonymous, and thus has lost it’s biggest and most powerful supporter….”
The note also proceeds to state that Anonymous hackers have obtained information on “all the un-ethical actions perpetrated by WikiLeaks” that Anonymous previously “ignored,” and which the group says it will make public to the media in a dossier as a method of “doxxing,” or publishing sensitive information about the target, in this case, Wikileaks.
The move is apparently a response to Wikileaks’ recent online fundraising efforts, specifically a large banner overlay with a video and a donation link (see image at the top of this article) that obscured much of the Wikileaks website until a user either shared the fundraising ad through social media or clicked through to donate, which was first implemented on Wednesday, but later taken down following an outcry on Twitter.
Wikileaks has for over a year claimed to be in dire financial straits, even holding an auction of memorabilia and affects of founder Julian Assange in September 2011 to raise operational funds.
A note posted by Assange on October 3, 2012 explained the Wikileaks funding situation as of late:
In early December 2010, WikiLeaks was receiving $120,000 per day in donations from the general public. In response to pressure from Washington, and entirely outside the law, financial institutions including Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Bank of America and Western Union, erected a banking blockade against WikiLeaks, stripping the organization of 95% of its funding. Although WikiLeaks has won every court case to date against the blockade, these Washington-linked institutions continue to appeal.
So, for the next 34 days, beginning on 3 October 2012, we are launching a new fundraising campaign running up to Election Day, 6 November.
Wikileaks removed the fundraising interstitial banner on Wednesday briefly, then put it back up and took it down again Friday, but not after a massive outcry on Twitter, with numerous users, including prominent accounts affiliated with Anonymous, complaining that Wikileaks had erected a “paywall,” around its content, and had thus reneged on its stated commitment to liberating information.
“Back to calm facts: @Wikileaks if you really need money for Assange’s defense then SAY SO and make a DESIGNATED site. Not this pathetic crap,” read a tweet posted Wednesday from the account AnonymousIRC, which has been used to announce Anonymous information dumps in the past.
Wikileaks responded to the complaints on its Twitter account Wednesday, pointing out that there was no obligation to actually donate and that the website could still be accessed by sharing a donation link: “A tweet, share, wait or donate campaign is not a ‘paywall.’”
Still, the remarks didn’t appear to dissuade so-called Anonymous users from decrying Wikileaks, nor did it prevent the posting of the threats on Thursday night.
At the very least, the feud marks how far Wikileaks and Anonymous are removed from where they were in relation to each other in the autumn of 2010, when Anonymous-affiliated hackers launched cyber attacks (namely of the distributed denial of service, or DDoS variety) against the very major credit card companies and online payment providers (MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Amazon) that had dropped support for Wikileaks over its release of over 250,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables, an incident known as “Cablegate.”
It’s the very lack of support from the online payment providers that Wikileaks says has led it to seek donations in the first place.
A comic posted to the unrelated website xkcd prior to the feud depicts what a Wikileaks versus Anonymous battle would look like: