The police in Montreal are investigating an online campaign designed to disrupt the Canadian Grand Prix on June 10. The threats have been made under the Anonymous banner.
Anonymous is a loose collective of hackers and styles itself as an organisation that promotes access to information, free speech, and transparency. However, as it has not apparent leadership, there is no real strategic direction and as a result, anyone can start claiming to be part of Anonymous and can attack anyone or anything. Inevitably this will be the undoing of the movement as the more extreme Internet vigilantes will destroy any good that has been done, by taking things too far. There have been hundreds of arrests around the world relating to Anonymous and the many different actions that have been taken in its name.
Hackers claiming to be part of Anonymous attacked various F1-related websites during the recent Bahrain Grand Prix and now there is action in Canada, where protesters have decided that the Canadian Grand Prix is a symbol of the government and are attacking it. This is against the backdrop of civil disorder that has been going on since February in a dispute over university fees. This has escalated with the introduction by the Quebec government of Bill 78, emergency legislation that some believe is a threat to the liberal ways of Canada.
An email entitled “Notice to Grand Prix Visitors” has been sent to more than 100 people who bought Grand Prix tickets online, warning that roads to the circuit will be blocked, that fires would be started at the track, hotels in the city may be attacked and people using the city’s banks might also be targets. Hackers using the Anonymous umbrella have already posted personal details of some F1 fans online, having broken into a ticket-selling website.
The above actions and threats are clearly criminal in intent and thus the police have taken an interest. People claiming to be Anonymous say that they will take down F1 websites and wreck anything F1-related it can find on the Internet.
The downside of all this is that driving F1 fans away from Montreal may end up causing economic hardship in the city. The race survives on ticket sales, as the government has limited the amount of money it will spend on the event. In the past when the race was threatened with cancellation, the local authorities and chambers of commerce etc have scrambled to get it back on the calendar, aware of the important economic impact the race has on the city, and the good image that it spreads of Montreal around the world.
If Anonymous wishes the city to get a bad image and to damage the economy of the region – in order to hurt the elected government – then it can do so, but it must also accept that its actions may be deemed unacceptable by the law.
It is not difficult to understand why many will conclude that rather than working for good, Anonymous is, in reality, behaving like an Internet terrorist organisation and whoever is behind these attacks should be apprehended and sent to jail.