jj December 18th, 2010
On the same day Yahoo laid off 600 of its employees, Yahoo’s image search function leaned a bit toward the risqué. And by that I mean an onslaught of X-rated imagery.
For a few brief hours, any and all Yahoo image searches—no matter the apple-cheeked innocence motivating said search—turned up a snapshot of a man and a woman, um, “knowing” each other.
Fuzzy kittens? Fornication.
Justin Bieber? The ol’ in-out-in-out.
Images of the $100 bill to print out at work and attempt to pass off to Juan at the lobby cigarette counter because you already demolished your paycheck on what you said was holiday shopping but was really just you, take-out Chinese, rotgut wine, and the sadness of a solitary life? Sweaty intercourse.
Over the span of time this money-shot image was live, it was viewed by nearly 200,000 individuals, according to TechCrunch’s estimate. That’s a whole lot of aftershock repentance.
Is There a Point in Rewriting Civil Disobedience?
Clearly, this wasn’t a glitch. This was an act of what we’re now calling “cyber terrorism,” the same breed of civil disobedience that spurned Operation Payback hackers to dismantle the websites of the Swiss bank Switzerland Post Finance, MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal to avenge Julian Assange and the shutdown of Wikileaks. Operation Payback has told the press that more attacks will be coming as long as companies continue to censor Wikileaks.
Unless you’re gung-ho about blindly “sticking it to the man” by tearing massive corporate websites to shreds, or, in the case of Yahoo, inundating innocent Web crawlers with porno, you’re probably questioning the point of these attacks.
The Yahoo Porno Hiccup is barely defensible, if at all. We’re talking about porno, plain and simple, and Lord knows how many 6-year-olds seeking pictures of their favorite cartoons were introduced—rudely and without parental context—to the birds and the bees.
However, a backlash such as the one wrought on Yahoo’s servers is an expression of disappointment and loathing, and also an illustration of the power individual employees in major tech firms have over the systems they were once paid to control.
I do not condone the Yahoo Porno Hiccup. I do, however, recognize it as a modern—and human—reaction to betrayal, one that’s superior to the immaturity of trashing a boss’s office or, worse yet, bringing an AK-47 into work on your last day on payroll.
Point or Not, Here’s How the Rewrite Starts
In terms of Operation Payback—so what if MasterCard was shut down? The site was rebooted within hours, impervious to the hackers’ digital protest. Without a lasting impact—or even a coherent doctrine explaining and justifying the attacks—it comes across as a bunch of whiny computer geeks behaving like jerks.
Historically speaking, social movements that begin with protests, violent or otherwise, have been propagated by the ripple effect: it starts in the streets, slinks into the living room via TV news, and sometimes knocks on the government’s door to rewrite the law. The architecture of these hack attacks have yet to suggest that such an enduring goal or strategy exists.
That decree is fair enough, but what I see here are the rumblings of a groundswell that could impact the Internet’s overall safety construction. Yes, these credit card websites only 404-ed for a spell, and MasterCard has evidently hired programmers savvy enough to bounce back with strengthened site security, but hand in hand with the raising of higher walls comes a clever-by-necessity boost in hackers’ intelligence, speed, and subtlety.
As much as I’m cautious of condoning what is, in essence, a tentacle of terrorism, I’m curious as to what Operation Payback’s next steps will be. Perhaps the next server failure will occur in the bowels of the Pentagon, or maybe a hacker’s sniper bullet will paint an entire business’s brains on the wall, irreparably.
One thing is for certain: our generation should no longer be labeled as upper-middle-class do-nothings too obsessed by consuming mass media to function as members of traditional society. Even in this disconnected world of tweets, TXT, and LOL-speak, there still exists a disobedient bent that will not be ignored.
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