Jim McCormick" />
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Monday, October 2, 2023


Internet group needs new tactics

I have found myself facing a moral dilemma. I’ve been following the saga of the Internet group Anonymous (whose base of operations is none other than 4chan.org’s infamous random image board) in its struggle against the morally repulsive Church of Scientology, mostly in fits of giggles.

While I laud its goal of trying to bring an end to Scientology’s pyramid scheme, I’m uneasy about the methods the members are using to achieve that goal.

This latest round of the seemingly eternal flame war between Scientology and the Internet started with a YouTube video of Tom Cruise making an acceptance speech for an award that Scientology’s leaders gave him – the Freedom Medal of Valor. The video has since reappeared on www.Gawker.com, and is also hosted on several other sites that have posted the takedown notices they received for their readers to mock.

Most of Anonymous’ tactics include posting ill-gotten and formerly secret internal Scientology documents to various Web sites, then submitting those sites to high-traffic social bookmarking services such as www.digg.com, reddit.com and del.icio.us, where the links quickly make the first page. The documents generally detail the not-quite-religious information that Scientology tries to sell to its victims. Of course, given the scam’s background as the cash cow of an inadequate science fiction author, most of these documents read less like some kind of text of enlightenment and more like a bad episode of the original Star Trek. Disseminating this information is probably the best tactic in fighting scams like Scientology, though one must ask where Anonymous operatives got this information.

However, Anonymous’ work isn’t just limited to making statements on various Web sites. It has also launched service attacks on Scientology-owned sites. It is this particular tactic which is worrisome, simply because it most likely means that a botnet is at work, and a large number of people are probably participating in this attack without their knowledge and expressed consent. While taking down someone’s Web server may occasionally feel quite right, the security risk to other users is too great to be written off as collarteral damage. Most botnet-creating software is riddled with security holes that would be quite useful to identity thieves.

The best way to fight any scammer is through the dissemination of information and by resisting any threats that the scammer’s operatives make. This is still the case with Scientology: every leaked document makes the group seem increasingly insane, discrediting both the claims Scientology makes and the people making those claims. There should not be an attempt to silence anyone, but rather make the hucksters and charlatans hang their heads in shame and walk away.

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