Anonymous declaring “total war” on presidential candidate Donald Trump is starting to reveal in-fighting within the hacker collective itself.
“Recently, Operation Trump has been re-engaged. We are here to terminate it and to banish it from the internet,” reads a new statement from a hacker associated with the group, posted to YouTube on Wednesday.
The release comes fewer than 10 days after another Anon declared “total war” on Trump, renewing a call to attack the Republican front-runner that began in December.
It’s a strange twist from what the shadowy hacker group has done in the past, in that there are now dueling statements and mixed messages going public. While there is no central leadership, Anons often loosely coordinate hacks and rally together, whether they were going after the Church of Scientology or helping to support Arab Spring protesters.
Now there are some calling to take down Trump’s websites, while others openly criticise the operation as being irresponsible and “cringeworthy.”
Cracks in the armour
So what’s the problem here? Why isn’t everyone rallying around the idea of attacking Trump?
While anyone can simply say they are “Anonymous” since there is no initiation or hierarchy, the group does have some loose rules most follow. And the collective’s initial organisation sprang from the anything-goes 4chan message boards, so most Anons champion freedom of speech.
But that seems to be an issue for some who may disagree with Trump but don’t think he should be censored.
“Don’t you think Trump has the right to speak his mind as everyone else,” one user asked in the #OpTrump chatroom on Wednesday. “Even if its right wing?”
One Anon responded that Trump was causing a “resurgence of racism and unrest,” while others compared the candidate to Hitler.
Meanwhile, others within the group were opposing the operation on the grounds that it would ultimately prove ineffective.
That’s mainly because the video announcing “total war” on Trump basically boiled down to calling for distributed denial-of-service attacks — a simple way of harnessing multiple computers to flood a website with data — against Trump sites, to begin on April 1.
Almost immediately, some members were openly criticising “#OpTrump” on Twitter. “DDoS is not hacking,” tweeted one prominent Anon account, @YourAnonNews. The account also called the initial posting “the most cringeworthy video within Anonymous.”
Some others in the Anonymous chatroom agreed: “You cant destroy Trump by DDoSing. Only by leaking info no one should know about him and I don’t think we can do it.”
Beemsee, the hacker who is trying to rally others to #OpTrump, conceded the point in an updated release, writing that taking down sites would give them publicity. “We know they are not the best way to directly attack Donald Trump.”
So what happens on April 1st?
While the initial pitch asks followers to wait until April 1st to start flooding Trump’s websites with traffic, some were already getting ahead of schedule. One Anon briefly took down the website citizensfortrump.com on Wednesday, amid open talk of finding vulnerabilities on various sites in the group’s chatroom.
Others were filling shared documents with web addresses to target. But the new release calls for the operation to be “terminated.” Whether that dissuades the collective remains to be seen.
“We call upon the public and the entire anonymous collective to redirect in protesting the system, not just one candidate. We also ask the collective and lone wolf hackers to stray away from the planned attack on Trump’s website this upcoming April 1st. Not only will this operation endanger the collective, it will prove nothing. There is enough information via the web to prove Trump’s incapacity to become president.”
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.