It's being reported today that Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has been personally threatened by the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous. Don't believe the hype.
The front page of the Courier Mail in Queensland looked like this earlier on today:
LOLNEWSCORPSE: today's Courier Mail describes Anonymous as 'the world's most dangerous cyber terrorists' pic.twitter.com/XfXWUUj8Ql
— Mel Thomas (@photogramel) November 3, 2013
GUTLESS, reads the headline, underneath the image of a figure wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.
The story is about a video posted on YouTube over the weekend reportedly by Anonymous objecting to his so-called "bikie laws", designed to crack down on outlaw motorcycle gangs.
The video is standard Anonymous faire, featuring the Fawkesian figure gesticulating while holding a piece of paper and a digitised voice reading a script about how these new laws violate freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. No matter what you think about it, you should know that a silly little YouTube video posed no threat to Premier Newman. Regardless, Queensland Police are spending resources looking into the video and for those who issued the "threat" to Newman.
Here's what the mainstream media don't know about the video: all it took to make was one bored privacy activist who thought it would be cool to send a message that no petition, newspaper campaign or protest march could get across. These videos are pretty simple to make. All you need is decent editing software, a bit of stock footage and an internet connection, and BAM: you're a feared hacker.
The Fawkesian mask-style video with the epic pre-roll graphic has been used time and time and time and time again to make protest videos under the flag of hacktivist collective Anonymous. So much so that there are guides on how to make said videos online that are just a Google search away.
The Anonymous name bears weight after high-profile breaches like the Sony attacks, which makes any "threats" instantly more serious. Plus, Anonymous is a decentralised group, which means there's no formal leadership to run ideas by when it comes to protest videos, which means that literally anyone can make one of these videos. Hell, Premier Newman himself could make one if he had some downtime.
Anonymous is an idea, not a group. It represents the ideas of freedom of information, speech and assembly, which brings us back to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and the reason this whole debacle kicked off. The video in question sees "Anonymous" cover off on recent news events related to the so-called Bikie Laws, before reading out sections of the bill.
Very scary start.
Then there's this:
For those of you who believe this is going to be used against criminal bikie gangs and only on bikie gangs, we urge you to think again and do some research into the documents. This is what happens when governments pass laws that do not take into account what people have done, but who they associate with: innocent people get hurt. Premier Campbell Newman has gone too far. It breaches our basic human rights, liberties and Australian Constitution. In the name of community safety, the new legislation makes very large and serious incursions into fundamental human rights, including the right to be free from arbitrary detention, the right to a fair trial before an independent judge and the right to free speech and association.
Australia's Constitution does not contain a comprehensive Bill of Rights in practise. This means that the courts have limited tools with which to scrutinise laws which infringe on individual liberties. Campbell Newman's bill has come with a slew of propaganda suggesting that normal people won't be targeted, but along with his broken election promises, this is not the first time he has lied. These laws make no mention whatsoever of bikies. They apply to any association. Laws which make it illegal to be a part of any association with members violate...freedom of speech. There is nothing criminal about being in a group, or in association with a group. This is a direct attack on our rights. We will not tolerate it.
We are Anonymous, we are Legion. We do not forgive, we do not forget. Campbell Newman, expect us.
You're likely to hear the first two paragraphs come out of the mouths of normal people like you and me. Imagine a talkback show host saying that and it's fine. Imagine a student protester shouting it and it's fine. Even imagine someone in Queensland Opposition saying it and there's no drama.
That last bit, however, is of particular interest and it's what mainstream news outlets are holding up as the lightning rod for their stories, but there's a problem: "Expect Us" isn't a threat, it's a motto.
In an attempt to sound as scary as possible, all Anonymous missives end with the phrase: "We are Anonymous, we are Legion. We do not forgive, we do not forget. Expect us." Can't you see it's a motto? What's the motto with you?
Saying that the Anonymous tagline is a threat is the same as saying that "Always, Coca Cola" insinuates that the caffeinated beverage is the key to eternal life. Grow up.
The real threat comes from real people, not piddly little YouTube videos from disguised activists. Earlier today the Premier's contact details and home address were reportedly published to social media websites, not by "Anonymous", but allegedly by someone who worked in a car dealership that had previously dealt with the now-State Premier. Let's devote Police resources to real breaches, shall we?
When Anonymous members want you to take a hit, they don't often post a preachy YouTube video about it first. They do it after an attack. They make claims rather than threats, like the claim just today that Indonesian Anonymous members have breached "several Australian websites" in retaliation for Australia spying on the country's communications.
Let's all keep our heads next time one of these "threat" videos go "viral", ok?