Does Anonymous Stand For Hacking Or Activism?

Some are saying we are mirroring the goal of Anonymous – the live activist (and hactivist) group who’s personality is really formed by the unified whole of many. We would say that our WebActivism platform complements the goal of Anonymous, allowing for a secure infrastructure where one can aggressively expose the actions of insidious people and organizations who seem to constantly dodge the axe of justice.

The guiding question of this endeavor is: What is the new universal in the global movements, and what, in contrast is their irreducible otherness? In what way do these movements construe something new – cognitively, structurally, practically – and in what way are they an image of the future?

We reject the idea of Universality. Capital is a universal idea. The global is not. The global is a becoming. But this does not entail that global protest can be compartmentalized into isolated particularities. Thus, we aim to de-universalize particularism by revealing the common bonds of resistance within the specific instances of revolution.

We are all Anonymous

They are faceless, they are nameless, they are Anonymous…

But that doesn’t prevent them from campaigning against religious bigots, corrupt corporations, and tyrannical governments.

Their critics see them as a bunch of hooligans causing mayhem by meddling in issues they know nothing about.

Their fans see them as heroes of the digital age; online vigilantes standing up to the powerful and fighting for justice in a world ruled by greed.

So are Anonymous hacktivists who should be praised, or are they criminals who must be stopped?

anonymous activism

We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

Anonymous is a loosely associated network of hackers who engage in hacktivism according to some and cyber-crimes according to others.

The collective doesn’t have a strictly defined philosophy. According to a source, Anonymous is not a group, but “an internet gathering “with a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives”.

In some ways, it may be impossible to gauge the intent and motive of thousands of participants, many of who don’t even bother to leave a trace of their thoughts, motivations, and reactions. Among those that do, opinions vary considerably” writes Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist whose work focuses on hacker culture in general and Anonymous in particular.

However, it’s clear that, broadly speaking, Anonymous oppose censorship, and majority of their actions target organizations, corporations and governments that they accuse of censorship. It also appears that “Anons” (members of Anonymous) tend to lean left, have liberal views, and have a low tolerance for injustice. Also, the collective only has a few rules, which include not disclosing one’s identity, not talking about the group, and not attacking the media.

“We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us” says their slogan.

we are anonymous quote

So what do they do?

Anonymous originated on a 4Chan imageboard back in 2003. At the time, users of the board would sometimes get together to pull pranks. However, the pranks soon became more than that, they became political statements. The collective first became associated with hacktivism in 2008 after they took series of actions against the Church of Scientology. Ever since, the name Anonymous has been associated with hacktivism and vigilante justice.

Here are just some of the things Anons have been involved in:

  • Operation Tunisia. In January 2011, Anonymous launched Operation Tunisia in support of Arab Spring. They helped Tunisians protect their web browsers from government surveillance, took some of the government’s websites offline, and hacked into Prime Minister’s website, replacing its content with a message from them.
  • Occupy Wall Street. In September and October 2011, Anonymous helped Occupy Wall Street protests gain popularity and media attention.  They have also helped organized an Occupy protest in front of London Stock Exchange on May 2012.
  • Operation Darknet. In October 2011, Anonymous launched the Operation Darknet targeted at pornography websites that exist on Darknet, an overlay network that isn’t accessible to regular Internet users, and is notorious for all kinds of illegal activity. Anonymous claims that they have shut down at least 40 child pornography websites, most notable of which was Lolita City. During Operation Darknet the collective has exposed 190 alleged pedophiles by releasing their IP addresses which can be traced to their physical addresses.
  • Operation RollRedRoll. Steubenville rape case in which several high school football players gang-raped a fellow high school student got a lot of media attention in 2012 and 2013 – especially once it became clear that local authorities were covering it up and protecting the rapists.

Anonymous released a video showing the rapists bragging about the rape, causing a national outrage.

  • Operation Ice ISIS.  Anonymous had declared a war on ISIS. They released the names 9,200 Twitter accounts suspected to be affiliated with ISIS, as well as took down several ISIS websites, and exposed the names of ISIS’ alleged technical experts.

There have been many, many other operations, some of them failing to gain traction, others attracting massive media attention, and Anonymous doesn’t have any intentions of stopping.

anonymous protest

But not everyone is impressed…

“They dramatize the importance of anonymity and privacy in an era when both are rapidly eroding. Given that vast databases track us, given the vast explosion of surveillance, there’s something enchanting, mesmerizing and at a minimum thought-provoking about Anonymous‘ says Gabriella Coleman, who has compared Anonymous to the trickster archetype.

But not everyone finds Anonymous “enchanting”, “mesmerizing”, or even “thought provoking”. Critics have pointed out that Anonymous, a collective defined by anonymity and lack of structure, also completely lacks accountability. It’s easy to cheer vigilantes when they get the bad guy… But what happens when they get wrong person?

For example, Anons have leaked the name of the officer who they said shot Michael Brown, putting the said officer in danger… But then it turned out that they were wrong. Now, how would you feel if your details were leaked, together with accusations of a crime you didn’t commit, and your life was put in danger by a group of nameless, faceless people on a witch hunt?

Moreover, Anonymous tend meddle with issues they don’t know much about, and that can have extremely serious consequences. What if taking down a child pornography website compromises an ongoing FBI investigation? What if leaking classified documents from a Middle Eastern country destabilizes an already unstable region even more? What if hacking into your own government’s databases and leaking their contents leads to a national security crisis? The problem is that the real world is much more complex than it might appear and accidentally pushing a wrong domino might start a chain reaction that leads to a disaster…

So isn’t it concerning that that a group that is not accountable to anyone and has no expertise on the issues they are trying to solve is this powerful?

Anonymous: how they get labelled as criminals

It’s easy to understand Anonymous’ appeal. They are standing up against the powerful but corrupt – police, corporations, governments… But it’s not as simple as that.

You see, on one hand, it’s hard to see someone as a criminal when the only crime they committed was exposing someone who was an actual threat to society. On the other hand, as flawed as our legal system is, laws exist for a reason, and Anonymous breaks them. So how should we view these online vigilantes?  I don’t know. It’s a complex issue from an ethical perspective.

All I know is that rise of vigilantes in a world where the powerful don’t play by the rules shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

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