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December 19, 2014

Sony cancels “The Interview” due to cyber-threats


Sony Pictures decided to stop the release of “The Interview” after hackers decimated the company’s computer systems and issued threats in what has been called an “unprecedented” cyber-attack.

The comedy, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco, revolves around a plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. U.S. officials have said that the North Korean government was behind the attack.

The hacking group, which calls itself the Guardians of Peace, released personal information on many of Sony’s employees, including salaries, medical records, emails and financial information, via file-sharing websites. It also emailed Sony employees and reporters with threats, one of which referenced the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

On Dec. 16, the Department of Homeland Security said it had seen “no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.” But after those threats went public, the four largest U.S. theater chains decided not to show the movie, prompting Sony to cancel its planned national release on Christmas Day.

Critics of the decision say that it sets a bad precedent to base creative decisions on foreign, terror-based threats.

“I just think the creative community feels that they had the rug pulled out from under them,” Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief of entertainment news website The Wrap, said.

Leaked emails reveal that Sony executives had debated the merits of releasing the movie, especially one scene that graphically depicts the assassination. But the studio had decided to move forward in spite of some executives’ concerns.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is North Korea? What kind of government do they have?
  2. What does it mean to be “hacked”? What type of information is typically stolen or damage occurs?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What is the plot line of the film “The Interview”? How do you think Americans would react if another country made a comedy about trying to assassinate President Obama?
  2. Why did Sony decide to cancel the premiere of the film “The Interview”? Do you agree that it was the right decision? Explain your answer.
  3. What role has social media played in the response to the decision by Sony?
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