Oct. 11, 2011 -- What's not to like about Occupy Wall Street? Plenty, say the movement's critics. They accuse Occupiers of everything from poor hygiene to making threats of physical violence against corporate executives. They warn that the movement may be trying to foment a bank run and cyber-hack the New York Stock Exchange or some other bulwark of the establishment.
An article in the New York Post takes Occupiers to task for drug use, strewing litter and copulating in the out of doors. "Zuccotti Park," says the paper, smells "like an open sewer—with people urinating and defecating in public. "
ABC News reports that a faction of the computer hacker group Anonymous has threatened, in a gesture of sympathy with Occupy, to launch a cyber attack against the NYSE. In a YouTube video posted last weekend, a computer-generated voice warns, "Many people refuse to accept that Operation Invade Wall Street is a reality."
It goes on to say that while one faction of Anonymous is opposed to such an attack, another favors it. "Those who are going to be part of the attack," says the voice, "have a message to the NYSE: We don't like you. …We do not forgive. We do not forget. NYSE, expect those of us who plan to destroy you." Anonymous previously has claimed credit for hacks against Sony and Bank of America.
On Monday afternoon--the time of the threatened hack--the NYSE website twice slowed so significantly that it became all but unusable by visitors, according to monitoring group Keynote Systems in San Mateo, Calif.
Vincent Schiavone, founder and chairman of ListenLogic, a company that gives corporate clients advance warning of cyber attacks and of other threats circulating on the Internet, calls Occupy-related threats "alarming." His company monitors a wide variety of online sources—including Facebook and Twitter postings and even posted church sermons—to see what topics, issues and grievances are increasing in volume, meaning in intensity and in number on the Internet.
An online "Occupy Threat Center" created by ListenLogic says the company's analysis of "over one million social media posts" indicates a significant increases in all of the following:
-Social media activity from Occupy supporters and activists promoting physical destruction and violent action.
-Direct and specific threats from Occupy "hacktivist" groups against specific financial and law enforcement targets.
-Social media posts, videos and images targeting: financial institutions that issue mortgages and student loans and that initiate foreclosures; corporate entities that received bailout money or government subsidies; companies that pay high executive salaries or bonuses; and companies perceived to be paying extremely low taxes.
ListenLogic is detecting, he says, a change in the tone of discourse about the so-called 1 percent richest Americans.
There still are postings that talk about taxing the 1 percent more severely or even throwing them in jail. "But then," says Schiavone, "there's an increase in 'let's kill' them. We see 'eat the rich,' 'kill the wealthy.' There are images circulating of senior executives being decapitated, images of blood. Artists are releasing images of banks on fire."
Such extremism, he hastens to point out, is not representative of the objectives of most Occupiers. "Is that the movement? Absolutely not. They have been trying to be peaceful and respectful." But the movement harbors within it, he says, persons "a lot more radical."
Asked by ABCNews.com if his company is advising any of the companies that have been the focus of the protests, Schiavone said company policy prohibited him from making any comments about their clients. He did say that Listenlogic's clients included Fortune 500 companies covering finance, consumer package goods, healthcare, food and others.
ListenLogic, he says, only monitors: it makes no effort to distinguish between threats that are real and those that are false or merely bluster.
For example, ListenLogic is warning of a possible run on banks by flash-mob groups trying, en masse, to withdraw their savings from Bank America and other targeted banks. Schiavone says he is seeing an increase in web references to "run on the bank" and "bank transfer"--independent of any mention of Occupy.
One such posting, which so far has drawn 100,000 viewers, can be found on YouTube. It purports to show depositors in St. Louis being restrained by a police SWAT team from entering a Bank of American branch.
One small problem: The YouTube account isn't true.
There's no question that a protest of some kind took place outside a Bank of America branch in St. Louis. But it took place before the existence of the Occupy movement, and no source confirms that it was an effort by depositors to withdraw their money. A spokesman for Bank of America categorically refutes that the incident was a bank run or that depositors were at any time prevented from withdrawing funds. In fact Shtfplan.com, one of the websites that first reported the incident as a "run," has since recanted its account, admitting that the incident was "not a reflection of Occupy protests."
Schiavone shrugs off the distinction between truth and fiction, making the point that anything seen by 100,000 people has the power to inspire imitation, and, in this instance, to be a threat to banks or other financial institutions.
"Not everything people say on the web is true," he allows. "But social media postings don't have to be true to hurt."