Recently BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) interrupted cell service inside several Bart stations in San Francisco as a safety precaution against a possible protest. According to their statement of 8/12/2011, it was "One of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform."
In response, a group calling themselves Anonymous hacked into the BART website and Tweeted links to BART employees personal information urging the public to "use email bombs" and flood them with calls and faxes. In addition, they posted other information via Twitter and Facebook hacked from the BART site.
I, for one, felt safer that as a BART rider, I would not be subjected to a possible so called flash mob within the confines of the train platform. With limited exits, fast moving trains, open track access, an overcrowded boarding area would have scared me quite a bit.
I am no stranger to protests, having participated in Hands Across the Sand just last year. We were peaceful, put no lives at risk, managed to gain national attention, and voiced our opinions.
Yet like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum, when this protest was interrupted by not having cell service within the BART stations, Anonymous resorted to a shameful act that could have put even more people at risk.
Speaking with people around town, everyone seemed to agree that hacking into a company's system and posting hard working neighbors personal information was not OK. That said, many launched into a debate about whether or not Bart was limiting free speech, the government censoring us by interrupting service, and on and on. The question of a criminal act seemed to get lost in the debate of whether Bart was mimicking a blood thirsty dictatorship or not by limiting free speech. Really?
In many instances, opinions seemed to be grouped by age bracket. Again, this wasn't a poll, just the water-cooler conversation in some of the places I visited.
Many, but not all, of the under-30 crowd felt it was an appropriate response to an entity they felt (whether right or wrong) had killed an unarmed citizen. The over-40 crowd was quite the opposite. Interestingly, no on was willing to be quoted. Why? Was Anonymous like the schoolyard bully waiting to jump out from behind the tree (or mask) and steal our lunch money? I was soon to find out.
Most issues are not cut and dried, black or white. Many times I can see the validity of both sides of a political debate. This one seems to have drawn a line in the sand. I quite innocently posted a comment on an on-line news site about the hacking. I felt that a criminal act (I am most certainly not a lawyer, just common sense tells me that hacking may be a criminal act) in response to the cell interruption was shameful. I wrote that we have many avenues with which to respond or protest with. I also wrote that free speech is a right, but updating your Facebook status within the confines of a BART station is not.
I was surprised by the emails that I received. One likened me to the "murdering regimes of Syria and Egypt" for wanting to censor my fellow Americans. I was told my ignorant glib statements would earn me retribution.
I am not reporting news but rather offering one humble opinion. And since I am fortunate enough to live here in San Mateo in the good old USA, I get to express that opinion. You can choose to disagree, or not read it, or simply click on another page.
What you don't get to do is bully me into not expressing that opinion. So here is my picture. Feel free to share your opinions when you run into to me.
Unlike Anonymous, I am not committing a crime and don't need to hide behind a mask. And I refuse to be bullied into to keeping quiet. Because really, isn't that what they are doing? Scaring us into keeping silent for fear of our information hitting the Internet? So follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, or better yet, post your opinion here on the Patch. It isn't whether I agree with the BART decision or their management, it is about us as a society, accepting criminal acts to implement change.