Last week, many news sources reported that the Anonymous movement had issued a threat against the notorious real-world trolls at the Westboro Baptist Church, comprised mainly of the extended family of Fred Phelps, who picket AIDS funerals with "God Hates Fags" signs, as well as trolling Jewish groups, military funerals, and other sensitive sites.
Now, some members of Anonymous have issued a press release disclaiming any threats against the Church. They claim that the Church had trumped up the threat in order to lure Anonymous supporters into launching a denial-of-service attack on the Church's site, which the Church could backtrack and use as the basis of a series of lawsuits against Anonymous participants.
I believe it. Close observers of the "Church" have opined that Phelps and his family have no particular strong beliefs, but that rather they are aggressive litigants who use shock tactics to lure private individuals and local police and governments into attacking them or abridging their rights. The family then brings lucrative civil action against all parties. It sounds like a sweet little racket if you're an utter sociopath.
If the threat from Anonymous was really trumped up, it's a pretty fine forgery, one that shows a high degree of attention and subtlety from the Phelps side -- someone there is a damned fine mimic of hacker bombast. It's also clever in that it attacks Anonymous in its weakest spot: the absence of any visible, formal governance structure makes it hard to sue or shutter Anonymous, but it also makes Anonymous vulnerable to these false-flag attacks and hoaxes (and it means that Anonymous has no institutional basis with which it might, for example, hire attorneys to sue Phelps or defend its members should Phelps sue them).
"You thought you could play with Anonymous. You observed our rising notoriety and thought you would exploit our paradigm for your own gain," said the group in a press release.
"When Anonymous says we support free speech, we mean it. We count Beatrice Hall among our Anonymous forebears: 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.' "
The hacktivist group said that, along with looking for more attention, the Westboro Baptist Church wanted to lure DDoS attackers into a "honeypot."
"They've got their ports wide open to harvest IPs to sue. Don't DDoS, and boycott Operation Westboro," warned Anonymous.