The Face That Launched Anonymous’ War on PayPal

PayPal may be convenient for some in the online world, but Anonymous doesn’t see anything convenient about some of its recent activities. There’s now seemingly a full-scale war between the company and the collective and neither side is backing down.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

It all started with the news of an arrest of a journalism student as part of the FBI’s a journalism student attending the University of Nevada. The report at the time says that she, Mercedes Renee Haefer, faces up to 15 years in prison for, essentially, her association with Anonymous.

According to her, she was much more interested in cracking jokes than cracking government computers, yet she is one of the people being targeted in the FBI probe anyway. AnonymousIRC posted about how outrageous the total penalty was and referenced a Wikipedia article which suggests that the average penalty for rape is 11.8 years in prison. At this point in time, we should point out that 15 years is merely the maximum penalty and not what she is definitely going to get. For all we know, she could wind up getting less if she is somehow found guilty. On the other side of the coin, we should also point out that it’s unlikely to be a crime to just happen to be connected to an IRC channel and chatting with other people online. If the FBI is desperate enough to just start arresting people who just happen to be using a particular IRC channel, then their investigation is pretty much to the point of being fatally flawed as there is a difference between chatting with people online and hacking large organizations and posting their internal data online for all to see.

Regardless, there is a certain degree of outrage being expressed by some individuals and it sparked a protest against PayPal. The protest is simply that if you use PayPal, you immediately cancel it, removing all funding in the process. Rumors have it that thousands of PayPal accounts were closed as a result which resulted in millions of dollars in losses for PayPal. One person pointed to a stock quote and said that their operation is working. We should note that the big sell-off could also be the result of uncertainty in the US market given the game of chicken going on in congress right now in relation to the debt ceiling debate going on. The protest might not be the only explanation for this.

More recently, PayPal dismissed the protest, saying that they are focused on expanding PayPal’s services.

Regardless, I can see that other organizations trying to carve out a slice in this particular market stands to benefit from all of this. Whether this will have some major implications to PayPal remains to be seen at this point, but it does seem clear that Anonymous has their eyes on PayPal at this point in time.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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