Last week, WikiLeaks announced the planned release of thousands of classified government cables. Its website was quickly knocked out, presumably by those who didn't want the material released, but WikiLeaks shored up its digital defenses and proceeded.
Governments, media, and others reacted with shock to the leaked cables, and responded by accusing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of assorted crimes, closing his accounts, and calling for his extradition. Private companies got involved as well: Amazon.com stopped hosting WikiLeaks, PayPal stopped allowing money transfers to him at the urging of the State Department, and this week MasterCard and Visa followed suit.
Angry supporters of WikiLeaks saw these moves as attempted censorship, and announced that they would "fight for freedom." A group of hackers collectively called "Anonymous," photographed only in Guy Fawkes masks, stepped into the fray.
"Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, Amazon all betray America by betraying Free Speech," wrote "Guy Fawkes" on the Operation Payback Facebook page, early Wednesday morning. "You will all be dealt with. Anonymous is on your case. WikiLeaks cannot be silenced!"
Anonymous responded to Assange's real-world challenges with cybersphere assaults against the various organizations.