LONDON (AP) — A fundraising campaign by secret-busting website WikiLeaks drew the ire of many within the Anonymous movement Friday, sparking an online spat which suggests a rift between WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange and some of his most vigorous supporters.
The falling-out is potentially bad news for WikiLeaks, whose beleaguered founder remains holed up at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he fled in June in an attempt to avoid being extradited to Sweden over sex crime allegations.
Anonymous is a loosely-organized, often chaotic movement of cyber rebels whose profile grew dramatically after the arrest of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army analyst who allegedly served as the source of Assange's most spectacular disclosures.
Following the furor kicked up by Assange's leaks, the amorphous collective of online activists has routinely stepped in to support him — either by carrying out cyberattacks on WikiLeaks' opponents, or allegedly by supplying the organization with caches of stolen electronic documents.
When parts of WikiLeaks' website recently disappeared behind a banner asking that users make a donation — a tactic similar to the paywalls of some newspapers online — anger exploded across the Internet, with criticism coming from many who had backed the organization in the past.
"This, dear friends will lose you all allies you still had," said a statement posted by a heavily-followed, Anonymous-linked Twitter account.
The scale of the annoyance among Anonymous supporters was difficult to gauge because the leaderless movement is by its nature hard to get a handle on. But several closely watched Twitter accounts linked to Anonymous expressed anger and unhappiness with the move.
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