Late last night, Sony revealed that it would pull The Interview from its release schedule. This decision was made in response to the step taken by the major theater chains, all agreeing that they would not screen the movie on its release day. The unprecedented decision is causing consternation among entertainment media types who feel that Sony has put the right of free speech in jeopardy. That's a conversation worth having, and I'm glad it's happening. But there is an entirely new question that this situation brings into dramatic relief, one that didn't exist before and one that our premeditations won't help us resolve. The question is this:
Can companies participate in cyber war?
Up until now, companies have prepared to defend themselves against cyber attacks as one-off nuisances. Such attacks are now so common that they no longer make the news. Even massive breaches where millions of customer data points are compromised tend to give us pause for only a few moments, perhaps a few days, and then we move on. But what Sony experienced was not just a security breach. This hack was a declaration of cyber war intended to bring Sony to its digital knees: a low-cost digitally effective cyber war that puts none of the hackers' assets in harm's way. And given yesterday's announcement, it appears to have worked.
At first blush, the decision by Warner Bros to rent movies on Facebook seems a little out of place. Sure, people watch a lot of video (mostly YouTube) on Facebook, but they don't go there to watch two hour movies, right? Well, for now they don't, but with some tweaks, they could start doing so very soon.
As my colleague Nick Thomas said yesterday in his blog post about Facebook's potential as a premium content platform, the future of traditional and social media are likely to be intertwined. Most of us, myself included, have been imagining them blending in the living room, where viewers can access Facebook on any number of devices while watching a movie on the TV. But would people be interested in exactly the reverse? When I checked in on Facebook I found the first evidence that the answer is yes.
You see here that within 11 hours of being posted, 1,914 people liked the idea of watching The Dark Knight on Facebook. This is compared to the 1,433 people who have liked the App Edition of Dark Knight that was announced nearly a month ago. (Don't try this at home; for some reason, the post announcing Facebook viewing has since been removed and I can't check for more recent numbers.)