The hackers group Anonymous is trying to hijack the democratic process, and House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer is right to treat it as a threat.
It claims to be fighting for freedom of speech in challenging the Canadian government’s Bill C-30, which would give police extra powers to oversee Internet users and watch out for child predators, without having to ask for a judge’s permission first. In fact, Anonymous is using a personal threat to try to muzzle an elected Member of Parliament and cabinet minister. The Parliamentary privilege that Mr. Scheer accuses Anonymous of breaching is the most basic one of being able to represent constituents and defend bills without fear of personal reprisal.
The anonymous, digital voices used by the hackers group do add a satirical counterpoint to Bill C-30, with its overtones of Orwell’s Big Brother watching over people’s shoulders. As the state’s anonymous minions keep an eye on the people, Anonymous seems to say that the people are now keeping an eye on the state. If it had stopped there, it would have been fair comment – even with its crudities about the personal life of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, irrelevant to the question of whether the bill is appropriate or not.
But the real reason for the anonymity is not to create satire but to shield the group from being accountable for its actions and to enable its attempts at intimidation, now and in the future. “We know all about you, Mr. Toews,” it said, and threatened to “release what we have unless you scrap this bill.” If such a threat were allowed to succeed, Anonymous might as well run Parliament.
Mr. Toews, in introducing the bill, attempted a kind of moral bullying when he said that anyone opposed is on the side of child pornographers. And the government, which opposes the long-gun registry and the long-form census as intrusions on Canadians’ privacy, is at best being inconsistent in proposing a highly intrusive law to police the Internet.
But making a personal threat and attempting to coerce a Member of Parliament, and by extension, Parliament itself, is a more serious mistake. Fighting for freedom from the state by denying freedom of speech to elected representatives is a perverse and dangerous way to make a point.