In an effort to bring greater awareness (if such a thing were possible) to the plight of now-stateless leaker Edward Snowden, Anonymous has announced #OpFreeSnowden, which takes the form of a Tweetstorm today, starting at 10am Pacific Standard Time. The stated objective, to “Take our PRIVACY BACK!” is clearly not going to be won by any action on Twitter, but in a propaganda war every little bit helps. The Tweetstorm package is designed and distributed in French and English, and signed by Anonym Hope and Anonymous Ekspct.
A scant handful of previous Anon-sponsored tweetstorms have been successful at trending globally, and with the widespread awareness of the Snowdon situation, this hashtag has as good a shot at the top as any Anonymous has ever launched. Clearly it will appeal only to those who support the ex-Booz Allen employee and his revelations of government spy programs, most famously PRISM and Tempora. There are no shortage of these; although surveys indicate the average American is content to give up the right to privacy for government surveillance, Americans also like a good David and Goliath story, and this one has one hell of a narrative.
EU nations banding together to pin the Bolivian ambassador’s plane and force it to land in Austria, on the off chance Snowden was aboard? No screenwriter would pen such a far-fetched scene. A marriage proposal from the most famous spy in the world? A legended white-haired hacker ensconced in an Ecuadorean embassy in deepest, darkest Knightsbridge, apparently pulling invisible strings? A flame-haired ingenue accompanying the leaker around the world and vanishing with him into the mysterious international zone at Moscow’s airport? And now, the internet’s most famous hacktivist hivemind, banding together to drive his name to the top of Twitter? Check, check, check and check.
The ground rules of a tweetstorm are simple: instead of retweeting the posts, you copy and paste them into your Tweet box, so that they seem to be original to you. Tweetstorms were developed in response to widespread Anonymous frustration that they could get hundreds of retweets but never, ever make it to the Trending list. With copy/pasting, they can. If you can’t think of anything to say but want to support the hashtag, they’ve already gone ahead and made up some tweets; some quotes from Snowden’s interviews, some simply statements of support. You’re allowed to make your own original tweets in a tweetstorm, the Tweetstorm Police won’t throw you off the hashtag, but the concept of repetition is important to the strategy: in marketing they say it takes nine exposures to make an impression, and Anonymous is counting on the power of repetition to get noticed.
What difference that makes to the fate of Edward Snowden, or the American people, remains to be seen. This is far from the last item in Anonymous’ bag of tricks.