Bizarre New Tech Trend: Demanding a Ransom in Billions or Bitcoin

Yesterday was not an insanely awesome #sundayfunday for Google Ventures general partner Kevin Rose. Protestors gathered outside the Digg founder's San Francisco home in Potrero Hill with banners calling him "a parasite," threatening to "snip snip" his "ballz" (a reference to a joke Rose made in 2008 about cutting a woman's breasts with a pair of scissors), and demanding a $3 billion ransom.

On Instagram, Rose posted a photo of the flier that demonstrators passed around to his neighbors, which said:

With each new tech corporation comes a wave of fresh techies, who on average earn four times more than a normal service worker. We are the ones who serve them coffee, deliver them food, suck their cocks, watch their kids, and mop their floors. Nearly all of them are just like Kevin Rose and we are tired of this miserable and untenable situation.

A report on IndyBay claims that the protestors were service workers and part of a group called The Counterforce, which takes its name from Thomas Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow. In Pynchon's book, The Counterforce is "an alliance of misfits against the depredations of technology." The group previously claimed credit for protesting in front of the home of Anthony Levandowski, an engineer for Google X. Levandowski was prominently featured in The New Yorker's piece about self-driving cars, telling the magazine: "I only do cool shit."

Both Rose and Levandowski are publicly visible figures . . . who don't control Google's corporate coffers. Regardless, in Rose's case, the Counterforce's grievances culminated in a ransom note demanding $3 billion to create "anti-capitalist" communities that may or may not be located "in San Francisco or the woods":

To this end, we now make our first clear demand of Google. We demand that Google give three billion dollars to an anarchist organization of our choosing. This money will then be used to create autonomous, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist communities throughout the Bay Area and Northern California. In these communities, whether in San Francisco or in the woods, no one will ever have to pay rent and housing will be free. With this three billion from Google, we will solve the housing crisis in the Bay Area and prove to the world that an anarchist world is not only possible but in fact irrepressible. If given the chance, most humans will pursue a course towards increased freedom and greater liberty. As it stands, only people like Kevin Rose are given the opportunity to reshape their world, and look at what they do with those opportunities.

Why does the Counterforce think it can get $3 billion for hounding Rose when activists weren't able to get anywhere close to their $1 billion goal in penance for private shuttle buses impinging on public transportation stops? Eh, it's best not to seek a coherent argument from the ransom note, which is about as long as Gravity's Rainbow and just as postmodern.

The screed is so ludicrous that Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal suspects it might be a "false flag," carried out by different people than the service workers they purport to be. Perhaps, like the macabre Defend the Bay bus protests in Oakland, the organizers figured a spectacle is worth the free social media advertising.

The flier was posted on a Wordpress blog called kevinroseisaterribleperson. The author of the post goes by the handle nicolasflamel2014, either in reference to the self-proclaimed alchemist who donated most of his wealth to charity or Harry Potter.

The Counterforce might be the most cofounding arm of the opposition, but others are also trying to shake some change from the tech sector's deep pockets. On Friday afternoon, The New York Times reported that a rash of startups, including Meetup, Vimeo, Basecamp, Bit.ly, Shutterstock, and MailChimp were told that their sites would be hit with denial-of-service or DDoS attacks if they didn't pay "$300 worth of Bitcoins."

The FBI is looking into culprit or group of culprits behind the Bitcoin ransom emails. "Even after the attack was mitigated, the attacker continued to send increasingly whiny emails," notes the Times.

The specter of ball violence does not seem to have shaken up Rose too badly. He acknowledged that his joke was "horrible" and that rising rents, evictions, and diversity "definitely" need to be figured out.

Along with the chastened tweets on gentrification, Rose couldn't help but take a swing at the demonstrators for relying on Google products.

However Rose, who became a senior product manager for Google+ after selling his startup Milk, skipped past his similarly odd choice to post about the incident on Instagram and Twitter, rather than Google's social network. His last Google+ update is a since-deleted YouTube video from July, 2013.

If you are a member of the Counterforce, please contact me at nitasha@gawker.com.

[Image via IndyBay]