Members and supporters of the hacktivist group Anonymous have begun to harass the head of Time Warner for his company's support of anti-piracy bills in Congress, according to media reports.
The Hollywood Reporter on Friday cited unnamed sources who told it that Time Warner chairman and chief executive officer Jeffrey Bewkes had been receiving threatening telephone calls and emails in recent days, and that profane voicemail messages had been left for Time Warner executives.
Bewkes' home addresses and a home telephone number, his wife's name, and contact information for Time Warner were posted online Jan. 1 as part of "Operation Hiroshima," an Anonymous campaign to pressure public figures and law-enforcement officials seen by Anonymous as supporting various repressive policies.
All the information posted about Bewkes came from publicly available records, with links to those records provided.
Anonymous, a worldwide but loosely organized movement of hackers and online political activists, arose around 2006 from a group of pranksters who gathered on the online discussion-board 4chan. It has staged attacks on numerous organizations and companies it sees as opposing freedom of speech on the Internet.
No hacking or other attacks on Time Warner properties have been reported.
The New York Times, in a blog posting Friday, said that similar information about Viacom and CBS Corporation head Sumner Redstone had also been posted, but did not say whether he had also been harassed. Other postings, according to the Times, included public contact information for the Walt Disney Co., NBC Universal and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
A Disney spokeswoman told the Times that neither the company nor its executives had been harassed. Other companies, including Time Warner and Viacom, refused to comment.
The Anonymous posting on Bewkes, which is still up on the posting site Pastebin, calls him out for Time Warner's support of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which is currently being debated in the House of Representatives.
"Jeffrey Bewkes, you make $20 million per year, yet your actions are that of a greedy man," the posting read. "You use your company's influence and throw your money around to manipulate aspects of politics that should be well outside your reach. You threaten to shread [sic] everything that the Internet represents by lobbying Congress for its destruction. We will not tolerate this."
Following a list of Bewkes' and Time Warner's contact information, the posting concludes, "Utilize the phone numbers, faxes, email addresses, and social networking sites, and make sure Time Warner knows that not they, nor anyone else, has the right or authority to control the Internet."
Anonymous announced "Operation Hiroshima" with the usual menacing video on Dec. 29 and posted a guidebook to the information on Jan. 1, but the campaign has since been overshadowed by rapid developments concerning the legislation, as well as Anonymous-related activities in India and the Middle East.
On Friday, principal SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, announced he planned to remove language from the bill that would affect the Domain Name System protocol, one of the technical underpinnings of the Internet. The DNS language has come under fire from networking and security specialists, who warn that it would undermine efforts to make Web browsing more secure and could even "break" the Internet.
Most film, recording and television companies support SOPA, which initially enjoyed broad bipartisan support when it was introduced in late October. But strong opposition from technology companies and technology experts, along with an outspoken media campaing, has slowed the bill's progress.
A second committee hearing on SOPA is scheduled for Jan. 18, and several well-known websites, including Reddit and Wikipedia, are threatening to "go dark" — pull down all material except that related to SOPA — to draw attention to the hearing.
A similar bill, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act or PIPA), has run into difficulty in the Senate. On Friday, six prominent Republican senators asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to cancel a vote scheduled for Jan. 24 that would move PIPA out of debate and toward a quick full-Senate vote.
On Saturday, the White House broke its silence on the issue with a detailed statement that stressed support for SOPA and PIPA's overall aims while questioning the bills' methods, especially concerning DNS.