The online hacktivist group known as “Anonymous” is calling for a global day of protest this Saturday — and Twitter might become the next target of its Internet assaults.
“We are now prepared to take the fight to the world stage," reads a message posted in the past few days on the Anonymous website WhyWeProtest.net. "Join us on Jan. 15 for the first in a series of global protests in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression. Stand with us to defend your freedoms.”
The planned demonstrations are meant to be purely physical (and legal), akin to those that brought hundreds of people wearing "V for Vendetta" masks out in front of Church of Scientology buildings a few years ago.
Anonymous has taken up suppression of WikiLeaks data as its most recent cause, which has led to illegal actions — distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks in the past two months against PayPal, Amazon, MasterCard and the governments of Tunisia and Zimbabwe.
Twitter could be next. On Dec. 14, the U.S. Department of Justice obtained a subpoena ( PDF ) ordering Twitter to turn over its records, dating back to Nov. 1, 2009, of all material pertaining to the “ongoing criminal investigation” of WikiLeaks.
The subpoena named several Twitter accounts, including those of WikiLeaks head Julian Assange and of Birgitta Jonsdottir, a WikiLeaks supporter who happens to be a member of the Icelandic parliament (leading the Icelandic government to demand an explanation from the U.S. ambassador in Reykjavik).
Jonsdottir took to her Twitter page, @birgittaj, to state her beliefs, posting on Jan. 8, “I have not broken any law,” and “leaked information is not stolen data.”
Twitter has not handed over the records. It has publicly challenged the gag order regarding the subpoena, rendering the gag order moot, and appears to be stalling compliance with the subpoena as long as it can.
For the moment, that puts Twitter in Anonymous' "good-guy" column. But how long will that last? Twitter's own " Guidelines for Law Enforcement " includes the following: “[N]on-public information about Twitter users is not released unless we have received a subpoena, court order or other legal process document.”
Twitter cannot hold back the information forever. It will eventually comply with the subpoena, perhaps before Saturday's protests. And that will immediately make it an Anonymous target.