I’m fascinated by the war that Anonymous has proclaimed against the Church of Scientology. I don’t condone their actions, which are immature and illegal, but I don’t have much sympathy for the Church of Scientology either. More than anything, I’m impressed by the extent to which technology is being used to take down Scientology. Anonymous is coordinating its attacks online through Wiki pages, Facebook, IRC, and 4chan, and is spreading word of their crusade through Digg, YouTube, Reddit, etc. Yesterday I spent some time reading up on Anonymous and lurking in the IRC channel where they’ve been coordinating their attacks.
How the war started
It all started with a leaked video of Tom Cruise being crazy and talking about Scientology. After the Church of Scientology got it pulled from YouTube on a copyright claim, Anonymous uploaded a video proclaiming a full-on war on the Church of Scientology. Anonymous refers to their war as “Project Chanology”, which comes from the fact that they are using IRC channels to communicate and are against Scientology. They published a wiki page that documents their goals and plan of attack.
Who is Anonymous?
At first I thought “Anonymous” was a reference to the nameless crowds on 4chan, the image board where most of the Internet’s crazy memes (e.g. LOLcats) are born. 4chan doesn’t require you to log in or sign your posts, so the majority of posts on 4chan are from “Anonymous”. However, according to a recent interview with TorrentFreak, Anonymous is actually a loosely organized group of hackers.
Goals of Project Chanology
According to their wiki, there are 3 goals:
1) Save people from Scientology by reversing the brainwashing.
2) Cause current Scientologists to doubt their “religion” (CULT).
3) Obtain epic and memorable lulz. Some believe that strong action could result in more media coverage, which, of course, means epic win.
The third goal makes it clear that they’re doing this not only to take down Scientology but also to have some fun.
Methods for annoying the Church of Scientology
The wiki outlines Anonymous’ strategy. There are lots of ways that people can participate, including…
1) Denial of Service attacks
Someone posted a fun bar graph showing off their success. I have no idea if this data is real or not. It says scientology.org takes 20 seconds to load, but when I try it, it loads almost instantaneously.
Anonymous also wants people to complain to Prolexic Technologies, which provides DoS attack protection services for Scientology websites.
2) Clog Scientology phone lines
Anonymous has published a list of Scientology phone numbers, including hotlines and local center numbers. They encourage people to make prank calls, record them, and upload them to YouTube. Suggested pranks include rickrolling and sending all-black faxes to waste ink.
3) Disseminate anti-Scientology materials
This includes sharing secret documents published by the Church of Scientology, using Digg and Reddit to draw attention to the crusade, and getting media outlets interested in the story. The Scientology documents are available here and on BitTorrent.
4) Spam them
Anonymous created a single email address that forwards to all known Scientology email addresses — Lord.Xenu.Chan@gmail.com. They suggest adding attachments of at least 1GB, preferably converted into binary format to ensure maximum uselessness.
5) Organize IRL raids, or protests, at Scientology Centers
On February 10th at 12 noon, there will be mass protests at Scientology Centers worldwide. The wiki recommends that protesters make sure to get their facts straight before engaging in arguments with Scientologists. They also ask that you check your local laws before donning disguises such as Guy Fawkes masks. There are several Facebook groups, such as this one in Vancouver and this one in Berkeley, that are trying to coordinate protests.
6) Get food delivered to the Scientology Centers
David Miscavigework’s (leader of Scientology) home phone number and address were being posted at regular intervals as well, so that people could get pizza delivered to his house. Some people were posting screenshots of order confirmations on food delivery websites.
IRC chit chat
Out of curiosity, I logged onto the IRC channel that’s being used to coordinate the attacks — #xenu and #xenuchat on irc.partyvan.org. Much of the conversation is very immature, with lots of profanity and 1337speak, just like most other IRC channels I’ve ever been in (I often use IRC to download manga). But there’s also a lot of interesting stuff going on. Here are some tidbits of conversation from the chat logs.
IRL raid coordination
I was surprised to see that raids are being coordinated outside of the US as well.
GERMANS (also Austrians, Swiss) are invited to #german for information and planning, etc…
———>>>> ALL SYDNEY ANONS JOIN #SydneyRaid FOR INFO AND PLANNING <<<<----------
IRL Indianapolis was a bust….the 2 Co$ locations were fakes, one was a vacant lot, the other a nursing home!! SCOUT YOUR LOCATIONS (like we did) before setting up actual RAIDS
DoS attack discussion
There was a bunch of shop talk about whether or not to attack Prolexic, the DoS attack protection service used by the Scientology websites.
If we attack the Prolexic NS we will bring more than just Scientology down – a lot more. They’re not going to come down easily either…
I don’t think we have the numbers to take down the prolexic dns
Concerns about backlash from the Church of Scientology
Some people were worried. Most were not.
my concern, as it has been since the inception of this glorious war, is that they will get IPs and seek out the anons responsible to harass, sue, lie to or destroy. if I could be assured that they wont do shit to me Id be DOSing 24/7
Fuckit if they get my IP and try to destroy me. Anon will still go strong.
every anon that falls will be replaced by more
Posts of related YouTube videos, Digg articles, petitions, and other information etc.
There were requests to Digg certain stories up, as well as requests to bury stories. Here are 3 of the YouTube videos that were posted in the channel.
2 guys outside a Toronto Scientology center wearing masks from V for Vendetta
Prank call that connects 3 Scientology centers to each other.
Message to Anonymous from a guy who has been lobbying against the Church of Scientology for a long time. He urges Anonymous to refrain from illegal actions — “It’s not right. It’s the type of stuff that they [Scientologists] do to us, as critics.”
Scientology Orientation Part 1 of 4. You can find the rest of YouTube.
Here’s my take on all this — The Church of Scientology is a powerful organization with deep pockets, so a bunch of prank calls and spam are not going to have a long-term effect on them. Anonymous is also damaging its own credibility by encouraging activities that are illegal (DoS attacks) and immature (pizza deliveries). However, that said, I do think Anonymous’s attack has been effective in raising awareness about Scientology’s strange practices. They’ve released Scientology’s secret videos and documents, and have gotten people who generally don’t care (like me) to look at them. Thanks to Anonymous’ smear campaign, people who have never heard of Scientology before and might have been susceptible to joining it probably have a negative impression of Scientology now and may be wary of joining it in the future.