CNN Airs Another Soft Report on Hacker Group 'Anonymous'

The internet group "Anonymous" claimed to have shut down the websites of the Justice Department and FBI, but CNN's Amber Lyon aired another soft report on the group's escapades without any voices from the opposing side. Lyon's video appeared during the 3 p.m. hour of Friday's Newsroom.

Lyon remained neutral on the group's tactics, from reporting their "favorite weapon" of web attacks to asking how long it took them to crash the Justice Department website.

And according to Lyon, "the bust of was the straw that broke the camel's back in the collective's fight against anti-piracy legislation". MegaUpload was shut down as an illegal profit-making site with copyrighted media, but Lyon aired Anonymous' soundbites defending its retaliations against the government.

[Video below. Click here for audio.]

Lyon also gave members a chance to refute labels of the group as "terrorists" and "hackers on steroids." She asked one member why he was laughing at the caricatures, and even added that "you've heard this, I'm sure, thousands of times".

The man answered that a "vast number" of the group's members are not hackers – echoing Lyon's earlier assessment of them as mostly "average Joe Americans."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on January 20 at 3:18 p.m. EST, is as follows:

BROOKE BALDWIN: Anonymous strikes again. And the Justice Department and the FBI – yeah, they don't think this is funny. The hacker group claims it temporarily shut down websites at Justice, the FBI, the copyright office, the Motion Picture Association, and even more than that. CNN's Amber Lyon has access to the group that calls itself "Anonymous," and talked with them about this recent attack.

(Video Clip)


We are Anonymous.

AMBER LYON, CNN correspondent: (Voice-over) The man in the mask has stepped forward and spoken to CNN on behalf of Anonymous. While Anonymous is more of an idea than an actual group, and tough to get a handle on, we've been able to determine that this man is in the middle of the action. And he says if the Department of Justice is going to shut down file-sharing sites, they're going to shut down the DOJ.

ANONYMOUS: It's a violation of freedom of speech.

LYON: "Anons" – that's what the people who identify with Anonymous call themselves – tell CNN that the bust of was the straw that broke the camel's back in the collective's fight against anti-piracy legislation like the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.

ANONYMOUS: It's part of a big picture that's taking place – that has been taking place over the last number of years. Which is a very big slide towards internet censorship on a gigantic scale.

LYON: The Justice Department says it targeted as an illegal hub for copyrighted TV shows, images, computer software, and video games, saying that the site generated more than $175 million in illegal proceeds.

ANONYMOUS: MegaUpload themselves weren't stealing anything. They were simply providing a service for people to upload files to.

LYON: Almost immediately after the feds arrested MegaUpload's founders and shut down the site, Anons gathered in a chat room in virtual protest. Anonymous' favorite weapon for these kinds of attacks is what's called a "distributed denial of service," or "DDOS" attack, which directs a flood of traffic to a website, temporarily crashing the servers. It doesn't actually involve any hacking or security breaches. And the attacks worked. The Department of Justice and FBI websites went down.

(On-camera) How long did it take for the Department of Justice's website to go down?

ANONYMOUS: I would give it seven to eight minutes, not even.

LYON: Seven or eight minutes?

ANONYMOUS: I say seven minutes.

ANONYMOUS: Even for some (Unintelligible) little shocking.

LYON: (Voice-over) Anons also tell CNN that they successfully attacked entertainment websites, like the Motion Picture Association of America, and Universal Music. Anons say software like Low Orbit Ion Cannon, or "LOIC," gives average joes who might not be computer savvy the ability to help them "DDOS attack" from their living rooms.

(On-camera) Some people consider Anonymous – you've heard this, I'm sure, thousands of times – hackers on steroids. Other people call you guys terrorists – you're laughing at this, I can even see through that mask. Why do you laugh at that?

ANONYMOUS: I would say a vast number of people involved in Anonymous aren't hackers at all. Some don't even have any programming skills whatsoever. I wouldn't consider myself a hacker.

LYON: Anons say this online protest was one of their largest – and to expect more.

ANONYMOUS: Expect us.

LYON: Amber Lyon, CNN, Los Angeles.

(End Video Clip)

- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center