You are hereForbes: Is Anonymous The New WikiLeaks?

Forbes: Is Anonymous The New WikiLeaks?


March 14, 2011- After defending WikiLeaks late last year, hactivist collective Anonymous may have just scooped it.

At midnight last night an Anonymous member who goes by the Twitter handle OperationLeakS released a series of e-mails with an employee at a Bank of America subsidiary, who is accusing the bank of fraud through inappropriately tracking loan documents. (WikiLeaks claimed last year that it had a trove of damaging, and as-yet-unreleased data about Bank of America that could take the bank down.)

The e-mails, between OperationLeakS and the Balboa employee, claim among other things that the bank is run “like a cult.”

How damning is the leak? Forbes’ Wall Street writer Halah Touryalai has taken a look and says it’s “tough to tell if there’s anything truly damning” about them. Meanwhile some of the leaks from bankofamericasuck.com have been removed, and a Bank of America spokesman told Reuters that the bank is “confident that [the former employee's] extravagant assertions are untrue.”

However inconclusive the e-mails may be, the leak may have wider implications for Anonymous as it gradually proves itself a source of comeuppance for disgruntled employees with damning information about a company or institution. “A lot depends on the impact of this week,” says Gabriella Coleman, a professor at NYU who is researching Anonymous, adding that the online collective could go in a similar direction to WikiLeaks.

Anonymous is not an institution like WikiLeaks. It is global, has no leader, no clear hierarchy and no identifiable spokespeople save for pseudo-representatives like Gregg Housh (administrator of whyweprotest.net) and Barrett Brown.

It has some ideals: Anonymous tends to defend free speach and fight internet censorship, as with the DDoS-ing of the web sites of MasterCard, Visa and PayPal after they nixed funding services to WikiLeaks, and the DDoS-ing of Tunisian government Web sites. It is also great at spectacle. The group’s hacking of software security firm HBGary Federal not only gained oodles of press attention, it inadvertently revealed the firm had been proposing a dirty tricks campaign with others against WikiLeaks to Bank of America’s lawyers.

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