Star Wars: The Old Republic Petition Attacked By Hackers, Temporarily Shut Down

After amassing 60,000 online signatures for their petition in support of EA's decision to allow games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic to feature gay romance stories, AllOut — a global organisation dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality — has now disabled the campaign page after a massive Spambot attack which has added almost 6,000 additional, fake signatures.

AllOut's petition initially seemed to be a burst of positive publicity for a company that has been inundated with bad press. The petition, which supported EA's decision to continue providing gay relationship options in Star Wars: The Old Republic, had gained the very public support of influential tweeters such as Stephen Fry and Charlie Brooker.

“Electronic Arts customers are speaking out loud and clear: Being for equality is good for business," stated AllOut's Executive Director Andre Banks. "Groups like the Family Research Council are truly on the ‘dark side’ - they put pressure on companies like EA to block fair, balanced portrayals of gay characters in gaming and other media. You don’t have to be a gamer to understand that it makes a real difference for Electronic Arts to present positive portrayals of gays and lesbians to its community of 100 million players.

“We are not arguing that Electronic Arts is a perfect company," he added, "but we know that today, on this issue, they are taking an important stand that should be celebrated and supported.”

Then, 14 hours later on Reddit, an image — which apparently originated from 4Chan — appeared, providing proof that multiple Spambots on Twitter had hopped on board this campaign. Many on both sites appear to believe that EA itself had created and set these bots loose in an attempt to rustle up more support for the campaign and turn the tide of negative publicity towards the company. Some posted this Reddit image in support — an apparent tip off from an 'anonymous journalist' claiming that EA would attempt to steer this negativity into a conversation about homophobia, to "make the public assume the dislike of EA is due to the dislike of people of a certain sexuality".

At this point any insinuation that EA itself was involved in this spam attack in order to reverse negative publicity seems purely speculative. AllOut themselves have suspended the petition in acknowledgement of the attack.

"AllOut.org has temporarily disabled the campaign page of its website due to a cyber attack by hackers," states an update to the campaign page. "In the attack, hackers added roughly 3000-5000 comments and signatures onto the petition. AllOut.org is currently in the process of removing those signatures, but can verify that over 60,000 members have sign onto the petition and continue to urge Electronic Arts to stay away from the dark side."

Another statement on the petition page itself seems to suggest that the campaign was entirely of AllOut's own volition, and has had no input from EA whatsoever.

"More than 60,000 AllOut members took action before our page came under attack from spammers," claims AllOut. "We've disabled the form, but want to assure everyone we've had no contact with EA regarding this campaign and are looking into the source of the spam."

One tweeter uncovered this piece of information from a Kaspersky Internet Security & Anti-Virus forum, which stated that they had traced the origin of a Spambot to an Origin exe file, but this could possibly be a false positive.

We spoke to Michael McKinnon, Security Advisor at AVG, who seriously doubted that a massive Publisher like EA would be involved in this attack.

"These online petitions typically have different ways of blocking spam, the only way something like this could work and fool the voting form is a remotely controlled bot net," said Michael. "I would seriously doubt that EA would have a part in remotely controlling a bot net.

"My general overview of this situation is that, given the passion seen in regard to gay and lesbian rights, it's not too surprising that we might see fringe elements try to help push the momentum forward on this issue."

We've contacted EA locally about this situation, and will update this story when we get official comment.


Comments

    Something doesn't sit right with me on this. I doubt EA would go to the effort to Spam a petition for a game that's already released. Sure they have had bad press, but this isn't the way you'd combat it.

    It could just be the work of a zealous pro-gay gaming group.

    or a zealous anti gay one, sheesh. Any idiot knows how bad it would look for allout. It's an attack on allout, not EA.

      Not sure how it looks bad for Allout. They've taken action to prevent it from happening further and been public with their actions.

    I had to read this like four times. W T F? The explanation as to why EA might be behind this was soooooo weak. They could have just released a Press Release regarding the site and it would have been picked up by most outlets. There's an obvious story in competing petitions demanding something from a publisher.

    I don't like EA for a lot of reasons, but surely in this case they were above suspicion.

      There is a massive thread on reddit about it. Massive.

    +1 to you Mark, for writing this article without bias, unlike Kotaku US :/

    It wouldn't surprise me, they were behind the such things in the past, and they'll do it again
    source:
    http://www.ugo.com/games/e3-christian-protesters-say-dantes-inferno-will-send-you-to-hell-really

      Yeah - but the big difference here is that a spam bot attack would actually be a crime. Last time I checked, paying people for a fake protest was stupid, but still legal.

        How is spamming a petition with false votes illegal?
        I don't see why it would be.

          Because it makes petitions completely worthless. It pushes agendas with false information as to how many people support it?
          Ever see that Simpsons episode where Bob rigs the election with false votes? Its like that

            Except one is an election and the other is some random petition which has innate legal protections.

            Though they could obviously have a ToS which in the US could carry some weight (maybe)...but they probably didn't :P

            Spamming random polls/petitions is unlikely to be illegal, immoral sure, illegal, I doubt it.

    It's entirely possible to praise Bioware for inclusivity and to crucify EA for it's bad business practices.

    *At the same time*.

      Sure maybe back in the old days when the world still had colours, now its all just black & white...

      Wait, wasn't that the plot to wizball?

        >but now its just red, green and blue
        ooooh if I hadn't, someone else would've

    F&@k EA and its misdirection attempts

    This makes totally no sence. Anyone who has a history with EA knows it will take a lot more to change public opinion about EA than a bunch of signatures from one group. I think there is a group working in the shadows.

    I'd be willing to believe that EA are doing the misdirection thing.

    It's just from where I've been sitting, I've seen a LOT more hate about EA/Bioware's practices than I have for them including gays. I think the only objections I've seen to the gay inclusion has been in articles here on Kotaku, and most of those articles have been EA saying "NO, WE WON'T TAKE OUT HOMOSEXUALS IN OUR GAMES" in response to a challenge I haven't seen.

    Not to say people aren't objecting, because America would definitely have a whole bunch of aggravatingly conservative idiots who object to how other people live their lives when it has no effect on them whatsoever. Even though they're the same country whose states are slowly but finally allowing legal gay marriage, which is great.

    What a country!

    Why is there so much of a fuss regarding EA including GLBT relationships in games?
    Not to mention SW:TOR has already been released.
    Looks like EA is trying to shift the spotlight surrounding them.
    OUR ENDINGS CAN BE AS FUCKING HORRIBLE AS WE WANT AND WE CAN CHARGE AS MUCH AS WE WANT AS LONG AS TWO DUDES TOUCH DICKS

    why dont they just keep sexuality out of star wars? they do not need it in EVERY SINGLE thing they put out. the relationship is one of the worst concepts ever implemented into video games. dumb. *all out* dumb ;) suckas.

    No comment in 5 months... I support this for the hope we get a Male Dancer's Outfit. :-D

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