This is the untold story behind Project Mayhem 2012, started in June 2010, an innocent and Artistic «game» that would turn into one of the most successful —if I may say so myself— ARG (Alternate Reality Games = an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players’ ideas or actions) in the history of the Internet.
. Project Mayhem 2012 was an attempt to code a Darknet, TYLER, a «WikiLeaks on steroids» without the figure of the Editor, in order to prevent him from being kidnapped/jailed/killed/etc, as unfortunately it has been the case with Julian Assange.
TYLER was described as a «Massively Distributed Uncensorable Collaborative Wiki-P2P Cipherspace Structure», always meant to be peaceful, that would synchronize conscientious insiders worldwide to leak data on corruption, fraud and illegalities on December 21, 2012 at 11:11 local time. .
Edward Snowdenmight have been inspired in Project Mayhem 2012 to publish his leaks, for he contacted british journalist Glenn Greenwald in the early days of December 2012:
«On December 1st, 2012, Greenwald received a note from a person asking for his public encryption, or PGP, key so he could send him an e-mail securely. Greenwald didn’t have one, which he now acknowledges was fairly inexcusable given that he wrote almost daily about national-security issues, and had likely been on the government’s radar for some time over his vocal support of Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks. “I didn’t really know what PGP was,” he admits. “I had no idea how to install it or how to use it.”»
The bulletin contains vague assertions such as «(U//FOUO) Project Mayhem (PM): DHS/NCCIC assesses that a combination of inconsequential physical mischief and potentially disruptive malicious cyber activity will be conducted leading up to the culmination date of 21 December 2012. At this point, specific tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) are unknown.»
«Though there has been little dialogue or hints about the specific tactics, techniques and procedures that Anonymous plans to employ for Project Mayhem there are indications that it could involve physical disruption and targeting of information systems.»
(For further info, see: 03.13.2013 U.S. Spies Want to Play Alternate-Reality Games (For Work, They Swear)
«Alternate reality games are no longer just for geeks and corporations that want to sell you stuff. America’s intelligence agents now think these interactive games could make for a better way to study human behavior.»
I submitted it to Phrack, an e-zine written by and for hackers, first published November 17, 1985. Described by Fyodor (nmap) as «the best, and by far the longest running hacker zine,» in order to issue a «call-to-arms» to the international hacker community to join forces and begin to code TYLER.
In the beginning (June 2010), Phrack staff, who fully supported WikiLeaks, were keen to publish it.
Back to March 2010. WikiLeaks.
In March 2010 Julian Assange was based in Iceland. Together with a team of people, he prepared WikiLeaks’ release of a video that depicted the indiscriminate slaying of more than a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff, by US forces. The video, which WikiLeaks titled Collateral Murder, showed the crew firing on a group of men and killing several of them, then laughing at some of the casualties, all of whom were civilians, including two Reuters journalists An anonymous U.S. military official confirmed the authenticity of the footage, which provoked global discussion on the legality and morality of the attacks.
In April, a classified video of the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike was released, showing two Reuters employees being fired at. After the men were killed, the video shows US forces firing on a family van that stopped to pick up the bodies. Press reports of the number killed in the attacks vary from 12 to «over 18». Among the dead were two journalists and two children were also critically wounded.
Also in March, WikiLeaks published an intelligence report from 2008 prepared by the US Army Counterintelligence Center. The report detailed numerous ways which could be used to destroy or marginalise WikiLeaks – essentially by subjecting the organisation and those associated to it to political persecution. These methods include: «The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the Wikileaks.org Web site.»
It’s in that moment, when I fear that Julian Assange could be subjected to detention or even assasination that I decide to contact Julian Assange. I knew Julian back from 1996, when he used to post as «Proff» in several (in)security mailing lists so I knew how to find his private email, which journalist wouldn’t know. I was learning as much as I could about cybersecurity at that time and I remember using Strobe a lot, quite possible the first port-scanner, that inspired Fyodor’s nmap later, that was developed by Julian Assange.
This is our exchange of emails:
– Jun 29, 2010 – I send the following email to Julian:
I support you to incarceration or death if necessary. Yes, really. .
I have nothing to hide. I have no fear. If you require so in
order to trust my identity or if you want to speak with me about
this Project, I’m available to meet you somewhere in Europe in a
place of your choice. .
Phrack staff fully support WikiLeaks and your work.
I am sending you the draft for an article I have written for the
next Phrack, due very soon. Phrack staff is keen to publish it.
But first I would like to hear your opinion about this.
Please, let me know what you think. Thanks.
> —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
> Hash: SHA1
> Hi Julian,
> As I know your time is limited, I’ll go straight to the point.
> I have updated the article to include a section with some very powerful
> quotes taken from some thoughts you wrote on your blog.
On July 2th, 2010 I got this reply from Julian:
The human factors are tricky. there’s no clear «right way to do it».
Should reputation matrixes be inside the system or outside it? It is
not clear. Perhaps the warez scene points the way, but that is a
Single systems which try to solve too much, may be unsolvable.
Freenet is politically inconsequential. People need to show courage,
not just technology. In a way, technology is often just a cipher
to get people to drop their existing understandings, which are based
on illusory fears. Illusory fear is enough for control.
Now I got the ACK from Julian to move forward with this.
Unfortunately in the end, after the north american media —and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton— began to ask for Julian’s head, the staff at Phrack, after consulting with «the Council» of founding members, declined to publish it. It’s my understanding that they weren’t prepared to assume such responsibility, which is understandable.
So I decided that I would do this on my own.
This was my plan:
– Attract the attention of as many hackers, coders and cryptographers in the world as possible in order to begin to code TYLER.
– How? With an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that would engage members within the Anonymous community in order to self-organize around the idea of coding TYLER.
A web page that acted as a «portal» to an ARG that gave clues within the source code of each page (CONTROL + U when viewing each page), in a half humorous half tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the esoteric ideas exposed within it…
This is a map, made by one of the players, of all the internal and hidden pages with clues, tips and tasks that the Anonymous agents would have to follow:
|=--------=[ Dangerous Idea #1 ]=--------=|
|=---------------------------------------=|Imagine we plant Trees.
Imagine we become Seed Trees.
Imagine we sow the world with seeds.
Imagine we finally find the COURAGE needed
to BECOME THE CHANGE WE WISH TO SEE in the World.
Imagine we are no longer afraid of Fear.
Imagine we re-invent and reverse 'Reality'.
Imagine the corrupt start to Fear Us.
Imagine corrupt Banksters start to Fear Us.
Imagine corrupt Governments start to Fear Us.
Imagine corrupt Corporations start to Fear Us.
Imagine we conquer Freedom by beginning to Be Free.
Imagine we conquer Justice by beginning to Do Fair.
Imagine we conquer Truth by beginning to Do and Be True to ourselves.
Imagine Information = Power.
Imagine we start a Fight Club.
Imagine the System is built upon lies.
Imagine we purchase a USB drive.
Imagine we take it to our workplaces.
Imagine we pretend we have to work late hours.
Imagine we accumulate all sorts of evidence about illegal deeds.
Imagine Conscientious insiders worldwide begin to expose all lies.
Imagine we code an extremely simple interface so that anyone can do it.
iMAGIne we all synchronize our clocks to aCKt at the same Time:
12.21.2012 11:11 A.M. local time: Winter Solstice 2011.
Imagine that thanks to one of YOUR Creations,
this "Dangerous Idea" goes Viral.
Suddenly people all over the world begin to publish hundreds (thousands?) of videos (with several million views in total) at YouTube about Project Mayhem 2012, like these:
Out of the hundreds of all those that were made to propagate «Dangerous Idea #1», this is the one I like the most. The soundtrack is original, also:
Anonymous Project Mayhem 2012: Dangerous Idea #1 (50.000 views):
When the Department of Homeland Security published the bulletin, I feared that they might try to shutdown the ARG (or me).
So, I thought that, this being a «Social Sculpture of Panic Art» project —in the words of the great german artist Joseph Beauys—, it had to be guaranteed by the Freedom of expression right. I decided to contact Nobel Prize Finalist Fernando Arrabal, a very famous spanish playwright, as stated in the PM2012 Artistic Disclaimer:
***** ARTISTIC Disclaimer in CAPITAL LETTERS: *****
PM2012, as *** A SOCIAL SCULPTURE OF PANIC ART *** is
SUPPORTED BY NOBEL PRIZE FINALIST FERNANDO ARRABAL.
CURRICULUM VITAE OF FERNANDO ARRABAL by Ante Glibota:
WHO'S WHO IN THE WORLD 2000 17th Edition:
By many estimates, Arrabal is probably
THE MOST PERFORMED LIVING DRAMATIC AUTHOR WORLDWIDE.
How and Where has Fernando Arrabal shown his support
for Project Mayhem 2012 as a Social Sculpture of Panic Art?
At his personal blog.
…ἀνάγκη … desperados…rats d’égout… autre arrabalesque… Project Mayhem 2012…
The official WikiLeaks account at Twitter retwitted that:
On December 15, 2012, PM2012 was also featured full page in «El Mundo«, the second foremost newspaper in Spain, with millions of readers:
Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics, Douglas Rushkoff, named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, twitted this:
I actually met Douglas Rushkoff in person and he invited me to his hotel room where we spent 3 hours chatting and laughing about lots of things, for he is such a renaissance man, and I explained PM2012 to him. He was very enthusiastic about it!
The system administrators might audit users, bu WHO AUDITS THEM?
Strange coincidence, right?
Did they release it because of Project Mayhem 2012? Who knows…
On December 12, 2012, though there were several leaks around the world, TYLER was never coded. The TYLER darknet might have been the inspiration for other coders, such as:
* Project Maelstrom (April 2015): BitTorrent Inc, the company behind the popular file-sharing client uTorrent, hopes to start a new revolution with its people-powered browser Maelstrom. Now that the first Beta has been released to the public ,developers can come up with interesting use cases, such as censorship free websites.
* ZeroNet is a decentralized web-like network of peer-to-peer users, created by Tamas Kocsis in 2015. As of 2016 there was no way to take down a ZeroNet page which still had seeders, thus making such pages immune to third-party methods of taking them down.
* IPFS: a protocol and peer-to-peer network for storing and sharing data in a distributed file system.
With the blockchain technology today we can build Decentralized Cloud Storage with projects such as Filecoin, Siacoin or Storj…
Project Mayhem 2012 represents almost 3 years of my life as an Artist. Countless hours (thousands?) thinking, designing, writing and creating for the LOVE of ART. My Art wants to TRANSFORM the spectator, not just being part of an aesthetic experience. No. I wanted something way more ambitious: I wanted to MOVE the spectator into ACTION for a JUST, GOOD, TRUE and BEAUTIFUL CAUSE. Yes!
Was Edward Snowden influenced by PM2012 to release his leaks on December 21, 2012? Who knows…
Were other coders and hackers influenced to create other Darknets inspired in TYLER? Who knows…
Was I —and the thousands of players creating Art all over the world too— successful with PM2012? It’s not me who has to say it —all I know is it was funny, beautiful and totally worth every minute of it—: