#OpWhales pits eco-minded hackers against one of the biggest whaling nations in the world.
Image via (cc) Flickr user Leif Hinrichsen
Loosely knit hacker collective Anonymous has been keeping pretty busy lately. In early November, members of the group began leaking the online identities of alleged members of the Ku Klux Klan. Then, after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Anonymous chapters turned their cyber-sights toward ISIS, launching a global effort to expose and curtail the militant group’s shadowy digital communications. Now, for the third time in just over a month, members of the hacktivist network have made major waves online, reportedly knocking out a series of government websites in Iceland in protest of that country’s ongoing hunting of whales.
On November 25, a video uploaded to an Anonymous-affiliated YouTube channel announced the launch of #OpWhales, a directed online effort to “expose the cruelty behind Iceland [sic] whaling industry.”
“Iceland’s escalating whale hunts are clear and willful abuses of the IWC's [International Whaling Commission] moratorium, as well as the ban on international commercial trade in whale products,” explains the video’s masked speaker. “Selling to Japan to fulfill the seemingly insatiable need for whale products. It has even been reported as being made into dog treats.” The speaker goes on to accuse Icelandic company Hvalur H/F of slaughtering and selling the meat of more than 500 fin whales for a profit of around $50 million, before calling for “tweet storms to spread awareness” as well as “combined attacks on websites and databases.”
The same day the video was posted, Reuters reported a number of Icelandic government websites—including those of the prime minister and the Environmental and Interior ministries—suddenly went dark, allegedly taken down by hackers participating in the #OpWhales initiative. Those sites stayed offline through midafternoon of the next day.
Iceland, while a member of the International Whaling Commission, has not abided by that body’s 1986 moratorium on commercial whale hunting, resulting in repeated clashes with the IWC, as well as various anti-whaling organizations.
In addition to the website outages, a resource site created as part of the initiative offers a list of sample tweets meant to raise awareness for the campaign. It also features several pre-written anti-whaling messages that can be sent to members of Iceland’s parliament and to companies accused of being linked with Icelandic whaling operations.
“Whales do not have a voice,” proclaims the speaker in the Anonymous #OpWhaling video. “We will be a voice for them.”