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Brandon's Big Gay Blog

Hacktivists Disable Anti-gay Church Websites

by Brandon Burt
- Posted // 2011-02-25 -

A 'net skirmish between online protesters and a radical anti-gay church spilled out onto the old-fashioned radio airwaves Thursday.

February 24th's broadcast of the syndicated David Pakman Show featured a discussion between Westboro Baptist Church spokeswoman Shirley Phelps-Roper [pictured] and an individual identified as a member* of Anonymous, a so-called hacker collective.

The origins of the dispute are complicated. From what I gather, here's how it happened:

On Feb. 16, an "open letter" to the Westboro Baptist Church appears on an open-post news aggregator site, claiming in the name of Anonymous that:

We have always regarded you and your ilk as an assembly of graceless sociopaths and maniacal chauvinists & religious zealots, however benign, who act out for the sake of attention & in the name of religion.

....

Thus, we give you a warning: Cease & desist your protest campaign in the year 2011, return to your homes in Kansas, & close your public Web sites.

Should you ignore this warning, you will meet with the vicious retaliatory arm of ANONYMOUS: We will target your public Websites, and the propaganda & detestable doctrine that you promote will be eradicated; the damage incurred will be irreversible, and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover.

It was well and truly said, although it could have been posted by anybody**. Still, a later Tweet by Megan Phelps of the WBC reportedly issued the challenge, "Bring it!"

On Feb. 21, a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack brought down several Websites operated by the WBC. Anonymous denied involvement.

Later, on The David Pakman Show, the supremely irritating Phelps-Roper said (of hacktivists in general), "You're all a bunch of criminals and thugs," taunting Anonymous again and again. So, during the 10-minute-or-so segment, Anonymous flexed its muscle by replacing the index page of one of WBC's sites.

These are the people who wage the global Internet wars -- the rest of us are mere spectators.


* From what I understand, "Anonymous" is an identifier used to refer to a particular decentralized affiliation of hacktivists -- since it's not really a "group" in the traditional sense, I'm not sure whether or not issues such as "membership" really apply. Maybe "participant" is a better term.

** On the other hand, if "membership" doesn't apply to the Anonymous collective, then who can say whether or not the original open letter post was from Anonymous or not?

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