Sparta: what happens in ObeyParty stays at obey party
Not quite, as you will see.
Christopher Wayne Cooper, 23, aka “Anthrophobic”
Joshua John Covelli, 26, aka “Absolem” and “Toxic”
Keith Wilson Downey, 26
Mercedes Haefer, 20, aka “No” and “MMMM”
Donald Husband, 29, aka “Ananon”
Vincent Charles Kershaw, 27, aka “Trivette,” “Triv” and “Reaper”
Ethan Miles, 33
James C. Murphy, 36
Drew Alan Phillips, 26, aka “Drew010”
Jeffrey Puglisi, 28, aka “Jeffer,” “Jefferp” and “Ji”
Daniel Sullivan, 22
Tracy Ann Valenzuela, 42
Christopher Quang Vo, 22
The Paypal 14
You may never have heard of them, but collectively (and since 2010 they have been a collective, and they always will be, for all time bound by shared word and deed and indictment and plea agreement) the hacktivist group the Paypal 14 forms one of the touchstones of Anonymous and hacktivism itself.
First, let’s set the scene.
In ancient days, which is to say 2010, WikiLeaks was beleaguered by governments but well-supported by donations from around the world: Donations held in online payment site Paypal. On November 27, 2010 a US State Department official wrote to WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, pronouncing the Cablegate leaks of US diplomatic cables was in violation of US law. According to Alexa O’Brien reporting in the Daily Beast, former Paypal VP Osama Bedier said that the letter precipitated Paypal’s decision to seize the WikiLeaks funds (then about $3million) and close the account.
Those monies have not yet been returned to WikiLeaks.
Still with me? This is where Anonymous comes in.
If there’s one thing Anonymous does well, it’s get outraged. It did so then. Hard. Almost immediately the pre-existing #OpPayback, which had focused on supporting torrent site The Pirate Bay, performed a strategic pivot. Soon it was targeting Paypal and Visa, Mastercard, Amazon, and pretty much anybody who refused to hand over WikiLeaks’ money to WikiLeaks. It was one of the largest, and most high-profile, actions Anonymous had performed since the 2008 Project Chanology actions against the Church of Scientology.
Part of the actions Anonymous took were DDoS, Distributed Denial of Service, attacks against the websites. In this form of attack hundreds or thousands of computers all connect to a certain website at the same time, causing it to crash from the sudden flood of traffic. Anonymous at the time favoured a piece of software called LOIC, low orbit ion cannon, to carry out the task.
No, the name does not really mean anything. Typically for Anonymous, the name was chosen to confuse and impress. All this software does is keep pinging the target website as fast as your computer can run the program, like auto-redial on a phone, only much, much faster. If a hundred people were auto-dialing your phone, it’d become useless pretty quickly.
It is for participating in the DDoS attack against Paypal that the Paypal 14 were arrested and faced up to 15 years in prison and fines of half a million dollars each. Cutting to the chase, deals were struck, no-one is currently in custody, and penalties were negotiated down to probable probation (sentencing happens in October) and restitution of $86,000 collectively.
That’s where Anonymous comes back in to the story, with a splashy Operation designed to raise that $85,000 or die trying. And, not incidentally, to give a big Fuck You to Pierre Omidyar, eBay founder, philanthropist, and Paypal board member, whose company pursued the 14 and who has become a lightning rod for criticism among Anonymous.
#ObeyParty, first dreamed up in May, took place this past weekend. It was an online and offline party featuring a tinychat DJ, dancing in multiple cities, an Obey Party-themed guest at a family wedding, and Truth or Dare for Donations. Given it was Anonymous, you’d expect it would take a bit of money to get them to say anything other than, “I’ll need to speak to my lawyer before answering that.”
I spoke to several of the organizers via Cryptocat encrypted chatroom, to get a sense of how it all went down. They declined, unsurprisingly, to tell me any of the Truth or Dare questions…or answers. Participants included Heather Marsh, activist and author of Binding Chaos, Sparta, admin of YourAnonCentral, and Paypal 14 member Joshua Covelli.
g[Heather Marsh]: we had 3 goals [with the operation]: raise money and have fun, yes, but also Tell Pierre Omidyar to go fuck himself
sparta: we achieved all the goals we set out to accomplish, so I am satisfied
TheCryptosphere: has Pierre responded? Did Paypal respond?
sparta: They won’t respond unless forced to
g: because since part of the plea deal is that the PP14 can’t criticize Pierre or employees, and thousands participated in that action, we think it is extremely important that everyone tell Pierre to go fuck himself while we still can.
In the ObeyParty chat itself, celebrity appearances had to be carefully timed, so the defendants did not overlap; they are not allowed to communicate with each other in chat rooms prior to the sentencing. Vincent Kershaw and Joshua Covelli each took a day to be present and interact with participants.
The Cryptosphere: How much did the party raise? How many places had IRL parties?
sparta: 1 million dollars, the whole world
The Cryptosphere: Yeah, but try cashing those checks. Now tell me what a tinychat party is like.
sparta: I spent all weekend DJing, I’m not used to being a fun person. I’m not like the YAN fools or most of the big fluffy accounts. I tend to redistribute twitter wealth with those who need it and the PayPal14 have done so much for Anonymous that sitting on such a large account didn’t sit right with me unless I somehow used to it help. Paying 80k to some asshole while the rest of Anonymous ignores or loses interest in you despite your sacrifice is just not nice. [It’s] bullshit and with the little amount of time they have left, imo Obey Party would help re-energize public effort to assist.
sparta: and fuck pierre lol he needs to pay.. but in a perfect world i guess
g: josh is coming so I have to delay asking triv because pierre sucks so hard. This is the most asinine thing
sparta: on the next obey party lets have two rooms no? So they can both party
The Cryptosphere:Yes, an uptempo and a downtempo one.
g: yes, that works perfectly because one can be [for] the drunks and one can be the stoners
The planned twitter storm, an effort to make a hashtag trend through mass tweets, did not quite come to pass, as events in Gaza dominated the hacktivist social media over the weekend. Nonetheless if the goal was lulz (it was) and donations (it was) then the event was a success. Since Thursday, the GoFundMe online fundraiser has grown by approximately $400, which isn’t bad for a weekend’s work. They only need 212 more weekends like that before October to raise the money…hmmm.
Then again, before the #ObeyParty was dreamed up, they only had $500, so it’s helped over time.
And IRL, as the kids say, the activist known as @small_affair had a family wedding to attend, but that did not stop her from flying the flag.
Covelli told us how he got into this mess in the first place:
I woke up [one] morning, and checked Facebook, then sat down to bs on 4chan. I was a total newfag, but liked it cause there were no fucks given. Saw a post go out saying “Hey faggots we’re raiding Mastercard! Get in here: the info for anonops irc.” Hadn’t been on irc in years so at first just sat and watched but I was also looking into what people were saying. tl:dr the government had pulled some foul shit on a dude just trying to tell the truth. Then I noticed nay sayers trying to tell people to stop or you’re going to jail criminals ‘n shit, ‘n told ’em off. Let ’em know people had a right to do whatever, ‘n fuck their arrogant, ignorant bs. Not long after IRC had my own copy of loic thanks to neweracracka and I was learning it how it worked.
And so we come full circle. It’s been four years coming, and it’s not over yet. There’s still $71,000 to raise by the October sentencing date, and something tells me Pierre Omidyar will not be sending in any checks.
Featured image via @small_affair