Anonymous has advised its members to protect their online identities, not to wear the now traditional Guy Fawkes mask in public, or even purchase them online, as a core group decides if it should take on a Mexican drug cartel that is said to have kidnapped a member of the group.
The hacker group had earlier threatened to expose the identity of members and supporters of a Mexican drug cartel by Guy Fawkes day on November 5, in retaliation for the kidnapping of a group member, and hacked the website of a former state official, alleging that he has associations with the dreaded Zetas cartel.
But there are fissures showing among the leaders as fear of handling the drug cartel builds up, with some expressing concern that new, inexperienced members could get quickly exposed and compromised.
The action has been cancelled, Sm0k34n0n wrote in a Twitter message in Spanish earlier today. High-profile colleague anonymouSabu described sm0k34n0n as one of the campaign's promoters in another Twitter message. But other groups from Latin America are said to be considering a core action group, and warning other members to stay away. AnonymouSabu was all for the action late yesterday.
A video in Spanish posted on YouTube on October 6 by a person calling himself "MrAnonymousguyfawkes", threatened that Anonymous will publish the names, photos, and addresses of police officials, journalists, and taxi drivers that collaborate with the drug cartel, hoping the government will arrest them.
"You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him. And if anything happens to him, you (expletive) will always remember this upcoming November 5th," said a masked person in the video, according to a translation provided by another user of YouTube.
Guy Fawkes day commemorates the November 5, 1605, conspiracy to attempt to blow up the Parliament. The Guy Fawkes mask, popularised by the movie V for Vendetta, has been adopted by Anonymous.
Journalists and bloggers murdered
Anonymous claimed yesterday to have defaced the website of a former official in the Mexican state of Tabasco. This morning, the website bore a message in Spanish by Anonymous Mexico stating that he was a part of Zetas.
"We all know who they are and where they are," said the speaker in the video. Anonymous did not however claim that its hacking skills gave it special access to information on the cartel. Nor are its traditional tactics such as DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks on websites likely to be of use against armed gangs, according to various analysts.
The drug cartel has killed people who have criticised them on blogs and other social media, according to reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists in New York reported in September the murder of a journalist in direct retaliation for information posted on social media.
As newspapers are censored by fear, Mexican citizens, and many journalists, are turning to social media and online forums to share news and inform each other, said Sara Rafsky, a research associate in CPJ's Americas programme. "So it should be no shock that drug cartels are turning their attention to the Internet."