“As Wikileaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America. Will it return to and reaffirm the values, the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world, in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?”

A provocative question from Julian Assange on Sunday, quoted on a newly-emerged Facebook event called OpFreeAssange.

As Assange enters his second month of residence in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, his old friends Anonymous have sworn to come to his rescue.

Well, sort of.

#OpFreeAssange (both Facebook Event and Twitter hashtag; see also #OpLeakGuard, an allied and similar operation) is not actually designed to liberate the WikiLeaks founder; it’s meant to embarrass the governments of the UK and Sweden, and in this it has moderately succeeded.

A broadly international coalition of Anons, including participants from Spain, Greece, and Sweden, have joined forces to DDoS prominent government websites. The Swedish Foreign Office website was defaced with a Brony-inspired variation on the LulzSec mascot, the #10 Downing Street, the Home Office, and UK Justice Department sites were offline at intervals overnight and today.

Primavi.se is up, but its front page has been defaced by Anonymous and adorned with an autoplaying YouTube of Assange’s Address from the Balcony on Sunday. Someone (it’s not clear if it’s Anonymous or not) has created a spoof uber-fascist Twitter account for William Hague, British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, whose threat to invade the embassy in an armed assault has caused the UK such international grief.

Today, Anonymous forces regrouped and decided to concentrate their attacks over a limited time span beginning at 9pm London time, making the DDoS technique more likely to be effective. DDoS depends on volume and concentration, so by limiting the action to a couple of hours, they’ve increased their effectiveness enormously.

Here’s the OpLeakGuard YouTube video, in typical, bombastic Anonymous style.

And the tagline of the operation, again taken from Assange’s speech on Sunday, is “There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response."

Meanwhile, IRL, protesters have been demonstrating at Swedish and UK embassies around the world, including Rio de Janeiro, Ecuador (where protesters wore scarves in the national colors, with Assange’s face printed on them), and Stockholm. A Change.org petition for safe passage for Assange to Ecuador has received 817 votes in less than a day.

No petition, no website deface, and no ring of flag-bedecked dancers can by itself free Assange, but they have made it impossible to ignore the controversial British threat to remove the embassy from diplomatic status and make an armed invasion.

The British government should have expected this.

Photo via primavi.se