(RNN) – As Guy Fawkes Day quickly approaches, it remains to be seen if international hacker group Anonymous will make good on its threat to take down Facebook.
Threats surfaced early this year that the group would attack Facebook for what it called violation of users' privacy rights. It also threatened to make attacks on game maker Zynga.
Fawkes was a Catholic revolutionary in the 1600s who joined Robert Catesby's plot to assassinate Protestant King James.
Nov. 5 is a British holiday dedicated to Fawkes, but its fame has spread worldwide. "Hacktivists" have taken up the spirit of his fight more than 400 years ago and applied it what it calls modern-day injustices by large organizations.
"It's a universal symbol of resistance to any group opposing any perceived tyranny," David Lloyd told the blog PostDesk. "And there is no shortage of tyrannical powers to express opposition to in this world."
Lloyd and Alan Moore created V for Vendetta, a graphic novel that featured a vigilante superhero who wore a mask with a caricature of Fawkes. A 2006 movie by the same name was set in futuristic England.
Anonymous members wear the same mask to hide their identities from the public. They are known for their attacks of websites and DDoS (distributed denial of service).
Zynga was the latest addition to the list of targets that Anonymous has laid out. The group said it planned to release all Zynga's games for free, which would significantly hurt its already reeling financial status.
Zynga announced recently that it would lay off 5 percent of its workforce – about 1,000 employees – because of financial troubles caused by plummeting stock prices and the burden of recent acquisitions.
The announcement coincided with Apple's much-hyped release of the iPad Mini, fueling speculation that Zynga timed matters to reduce negative media attention.
Zynga's games are featured prominently on Facebook, which has had marginal financial gains since it went public in May.
According to the Russian Times, Anonymous had targeted Fox News last year because of lack of coverage of the Occupy protests, which Anonymous members participated in. Anonymous also had targeted the Zeta drug cartel for its abduction of an Anonymous member.
The story behind the real man behind the mask begins in the 1500s, when Elizabeth I began persecuting the Catholic minority by instituting severe civil penalties for the practice of their religion. In the 1500s, English people could be executed for being a Catholic priest – or for housing one.
Along came Fawkes, a converted Catholic, who took arms against the Church of England and the throne, fighting back against the religious persecution. He joined a rebel group that Catesby led.
"Catesby had formulated the idea of placing gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament and eliminating the royal family and the English ruling class in a large explosion when Parliament opened," said James Sharpe, a professor at the University of York, England.
On the night of Nov. 5, 1605, Fawkes was discovered with a stock of gun powder after an anonymous tip led to a search of parliament. Fawkes was tortured until he named his co-conspirators, who were arrested and publicly hanged, drawn and quartered.
Over the years, Guy Fawkes Day has evolved in England to include fireworks, bonfires and the hanging of Fawkes' effigy.
Some are concerned that the violent nature of Fawkes' original plan doesn't fit with the peaceful protests of Occupy and Anonymous.
"Well, obviously these groups want to bring about change, while wearing the mask helps anonymity," said Sharpe.
But Sharpe also thinks the groups probably don't know the entire history of Fawkes and only know him in the context of the movie V for Vendetta.
"It's a visual thing; it sets us apart from the hippies and the socialists and gives us our own identity," one member of Anonymous told the BBC. "We're about bypassing governments and starting from the bottom."
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