30 December 2010

A Dangerous Road

The FBI has reportedly raided a Texas web host and worked with international authorities to search servers in pursuit of the anonymous leaders of the group Anonymous, who blocked the website of PayPal earlier this month in retribution to the company's decision to stop its customers from making donations to Wikileaks. That according to an affidavit posted in part by the legal watchdog website The Smoking Gun today. Dallas host Tailor Made Services was raided on the 16th of December, the site reported.
"These coordinated attacks, investigators allege," writes The Smoking Gun, "amount to felony violations of a federal law covering the 'unauthorized and knowing transmission of code or commands resulting in intentional damage to a protected computer system.'" How several hours of inaccessibility constituted damage to the system was not described in the part of the affidavit posted online.

Damage to the system is the key to this case.  If there was damage to PayPal’s server system, then it is pretty obvious that their property rights have been violated, and prosecution of Anonymous is the proper course of action, regardless of where one’s sympathies may lie.

On the other hand, it seems highly unlikely that there is actually any physical damage, and the FBI is simply trying to make someone pay.  That’s what happens when you support those who fight for others’ rights.  If this is actually the case, then America isn’t too far from Orwell’s dystopia.

Alternatively, the FBI may try to argue that an unwanted suspension of customer service is the issue, but that doesn’t really violate anyone’s rights.  Rather, it simply highlights PayPal’s lack of foresight when making decisions, much to the detriment of their customers.

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