'Operation Chokehold': Fake Steve Jobs Rallies iPhone Users to Cripple AT&T Network

Photo: Fake Steve Jobs Rallies iPhone Users to Cripple AT&T Network

It may have started as a joke, but now a stunt urging iPhone users to take down AT&T's wireless network has drawn the attention of federal regulators -- who condemn the digital protest as "irresponsible."

On Monday, Newsweek reporter Daniel Lyons, who writes the popular blog, "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs," posted a satirical memo encouraging iPhone owners to participate in "Operation Chokehold."

Writing as "Fake Steve," he told iPhone users to voice their dissatisfaction with the performance of AT&T's wireless network by running the phone's most data-intensive applications at the same time -- 3 p.m. ET Friday. That, he said, would "overwhelm the AT&T data network and bring it to its knees."

"Send the message to AT&T that we are sick of their substandard network and sick of their abusive comments," Lyons wrote. "The idea is we'll create a digital flash mob."

The spoof campaign has quickly taken on a life of its own, as blogs and Twitter users have spread the word. A Facebook group even counts more than 1,900 people as fans of "Operation Chokehold."

FCC: Protest Presents Public Safety Concern

But today the FCC caught wind of the protest and said the protest could be a threat to public safety, blocking AT&T users who might need to call 911.

"Threats of this nature are serious and we caution the public to use common sense and good judgment when accessing the Internet from their commercial mobile devices," Jamie Barnett, chief of FCC's public safety and homeland security bureau, said in a statement. "To purposely try to disrupt or negatively impact a network with ill-intent is irresponsible and presents a significant public safety concern."

Many owners of Apple's iPhone -- which is only available with AT&T data and voice plans -- have become annoyed with dropped calls and slow data speeds, which they blame on inadequacies in AT&T's network.

Lyons posted his "memo" after recent comments from an AT&T executive revealed that the company is considering incentives to keep so-called "bandwidth hogs" from jamming the network with video and other data-hungry applications.

'Fake Steve': iPhone Users Feel Powerless

"There's real anger about AT&T," Lyons told ABCNews.com. He said the executive's "mealy-mouthing" about incentives for people to use less bandwidth pushed already-disgruntled iPhone owners over the edge.

"I was really taken aback by the response," he said. But it appears he struck a nerve among iPhone users who believe AT&T isn't delivering on its promises.

"I think they do feel powerless and at AT&T's mercy," Lyons said.

For its part, AT&T is none too happy with "Fake Steve's" campaign and the attention it's getting.

"We understand that fakesteve.net is primarily a satirical forum, but there is nothing amusing about advocating that customers attempt to deliberately degrade service on a network that provides critical communications services for more than 80 million customers," a company spokeswoman said in a statement. "We know that the vast majority of customers will see this action for what it is: an irresponsible and pointless scheme to draw attention to a blog."

But that hasn't stopped the campaign from gaining traction online.

'Operation Chokehold' Facebook Group Tops 1,900 Members

The "Operation Chokehold" Facebook group grew from 300 Tuesday to more than 1,900 today. It's even inspired a counter group of AT&T supporters on Facebook -- "Operation Cuckoo" -- to protest the protesters.

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