On Saturday, the loose collective known as Anonymous used the cover of digital limbo to surreptitiously publish private information about certain Spaniards thought to support anti-piracy legislation.
The targets included former Culture Minister Ángeles González-Sinde, the main sponsor of the intellectual property law that informally bears her name, as well as her successor José Ignacio Wert, who has pledged to implement it, and the president of the Spanish Cinema Academy, Enrique González Macho. Actors such as Carlos Bardem and singers such as David Bisbal were also on the Anonymous list.
Some of the people who saw their home addresses, email details and cellphone numbers disclosed on the internet spent Monday morning lodging complaints at police stations. Many of them had already received dozens of anonymous calls, and one person reported a death threat.
Anonymous uploaded the personal information while the film industry was celebrating the recent nominations for the Goya Awards, the Spanish Cinema Academy's annual prizes. Some of the victims of the attack are calling it "a digital version of kale borroka," a reference to the street violence carried out for years by supporters of Basque terrorist group ETA.
González-Sinde, her brother, the producers of Morena Films (makers of Cell 211, Even the Rain and Che) and actor Carlos Bardem all filed complaints over the disclosure of their personal data, as well as the text that Anonymous uploaded along with it: "We have a lot more information stored in safe places. We thought it right not to publish data about people who are unrelated to the Sinde/Wert Law, but if in future these people change their attitude or do something that we feel deserves punishment, then all our wrath will descend upon them."
The group of hackers and online activists also warned that further attacks were coming up on February 19, when the Goya Awards are to be handed out. Last year, Anonymous organized a protest at the door of Madrid's opera house, the Teatro Real, where last year's ceremony was held, and nominees were yelled at as they entered the premises.
Anonymous did not check its data, and provided some erroneous cellphone numbers. For instance, a former Socialist culture minister, Carmen Alborch, was listed as having a cellphone number that she says is not hers. "There is an inconsistency in this attack," said Alborch, now a senator. "People who claim to defend human rights and freedom of expression are making anonymous threats."
The controversial document adds links to published articles in which the targets express support for the Sinde Law, which establishes an anti-piracy system based on complaints by copyright holders and a special committee appointed to act as mediator and arbiter. The law also enables the courts to act to shut down offending websites that continue to provide access to copyrighted material. A recent report by the US recording industry described this legislation as a step forward but still insufficient compared with those in stricter countries such as France. Spain is considered one of the world's worst offenders when it comes to online piracy.
"I hope the state attorney takes action," said Cinema Academy chief González Macho. "These are threats to ministers and former ministers by an organized group."
Besides personal information, Anonymous disclosed how much money some producers received in grants, using information available in the official state gazette, the BOE.
Sources close to Filmax president Julio Fernández, who also shows up on the list, asked for an investigation into "an organization that is blackmailing the world of cinema."
Anonymous also published photographs of González-Sinde's house (running the following caption: "Photograph of the front of her fucking home") and listed a music producer, a dozen film producers and distributors, relatives of Wert and González-Sinde, actors, agents and directors.
In statements to EL PAÍS, some of them said they have never made any public statements about the Sinde Law, although they did speak out in favor of intellectual property.
"They encourage violence. It's intolerable," said one producer. "I don't know whether this is a game played by some irresponsible individuals who are acting out the part of a comic book character, or whether they want something serious. They are destructive without a clear objective and they're ignoring the consequences."
Actor Carlos Bardem, who spent two days debating the affair on Twitter, described it as "Nazi and fascist."
"There is no other way to describe this finger-pointing and the way they encourage the harassment of people who simply disagree with them," he said. "I am not a hardcore defender of the Sinde Law, but I am opposed to piracy, yet I'm as much of an internet user as they are. I would tell them that in the history of humankind, changes have been carried out by people with faces and names, not people who hide behind masks."