Anonymous originated in 2003 on the imageboard 4chan, representing the concept of many online and offline community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global brain. Anonymous members (known as "Anons") can be distinguished in public by the wearing of stylised Guy Fawkes masks.
In its early form, the concept was adopted by a decentralized online community acting anonymously in a coordinated manner, usually toward a loosely self-agreed goal, and primarily focused on entertainment, or "lulz". Beginning with 2008's Project Chanology—a series of protests, pranks, and hacks targeting the Church of Scientology—the Anonymous collective became increasingly associated with collaborative hacktivism on a number of issues internationally. Individuals claiming to align themselves with Anonymous undertook protests and other actions (including direct action) in retaliation against anti-digital piracy campaigns by motion picture and recording industry trade associations. Later targets of Anonymous hacktivism included government agencies of the US, Israel, Tunisia, Uganda, and others; ISIS; child pornography sites; copyright protection agencies; the Westboro Baptist Church; and corporations such as PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and Sony. Anons have publicly supported WikiLeaks and the Occupy movement. Related groups LulzSec and Operation AntiSec carried out cyberattacks on US government agencies, media, video game companies, military contractors, military personnel, and police officers, resulting in the attention of law enforcement to the groups' activities. Some actions by the group have been described as being anti-Zionist. It has threatened to erase Israel from the Internet and engaged in the "#OpIsrael" cyber-attacks of Israeli websites on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in 2013.
Dozens of people have been arrested for involvement in Anonymous cyberattacks, in countries including the US, UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Turkey. Evaluations of the group's actions and effectiveness vary widely. Supporters have called the group "freedom fighters" and digital Robin Hoods while critics have described them as "a cyber lynch-mob" or "cyber terrorists". In 2012, Time called Anonymous one of the "100 most influential people" in the world.
Anonymous has no strictly defined philosophy, and internal dissent is a regular feature of the group. A website associated with the group describes it as "an Internet gathering" with "a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives". Gabriella Coleman writes of the group, "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."
Broadly speaking, Anons oppose internet censorship and control, and the majority of their actions target governments, organizations, and corporations that they accuse of censorship. Anons were early supporters of the global Occupy movement and the Arab Spring. Since 2008, a frequent subject of disagreement within Anonymous is whether members should focus on pranking and entertainment or more serious (and in some cases political) activism.
“We [Anonymous] just happen to be a group of people on the Internet who need—just kind of an outlet to do as we wish, that we wouldn't be able to do in regular society. ...That's more or less the point of it. Do as you wish. ... There's a common phrase: 'we are doing it for the lulz.'
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|The time for change is now.|
Part of the series, CNN Money tracked down and interviewed an alleged Anonymous hacker. Surprisingly, the mainstream outlet covered the story in a fair manner, asking reasonable questions. It also explained that members of Anonymous hackers often disagree on potential targets, and that they hack for differing reasons and ideologies- avoiding the mainstream assumption that Anonymous behaves as a conventional organisation does with leaders and a singular ideology.
Below is the transcript of the interview:
CNNMoney: Why do you hack?
Anonymous: There are many answers for this question. But for Anonymous, hacking is a practical way to show we can change things. We hack because we can. [The government] needs to know it is not in total control. And people need to know that too. Control is an illusion, and it must be broken.
CNNMoney: Anonymous is sometimes categorized as a “hacktivist” group — what kind activism interests you?
Anonymous: Anonymous is about giving voice to the silenced. There’s no particular kind of activism we give priority to. We are interested in giving power back to people. Besides, we want the Internet to be a common asset. Its infrastructure must be rebuilt so no government or corporation can control it. Universal encryption should be a security tool for every citizen to keep their personal information safe.
CNNMoney: How do you choose your causes?
Anonymous: Usually in brainstorms. But some things just happen organically. It’s a little chaotic. You have an idea, you show your idea. If it’s good, more people will help you. And it can become global. Every once in a while someone tries to use operations to call attention for their work, their careers, their private interests. But it just won’t work.
CNNMoney: What do you say to those who say Anonymous breaks the law?
Anonymous: If change comes through breaking laws, I think the laws must be broken.
CNNMoney: Is there a line you guys won’t cross?
Anonymous: Hard to say. Depends on the situation, the urgency, the seriousness. We can’t answer for everyone, you know? But we would say the “personal interest” line — if we take something from anyone, it’s going to be given to someone who needs. Or it’s gonna be public. Like information.
CNNMoney: Could you explain your code of ethics?
Anonymous: There’s no rigid code. We fight for freedom, so I can’t just throw my rules on you.
CNNMoney: Is there a unifying principle?
Anonymous:Freedom. If there’s something that easily bring us together, it’s the struggle for freedom. If you lock up any of us, you’ll have trouble with every one of us. If you silence one of us, all the others will be yelling.
We desire the reconstruction of the Internet’s infrastructure, in a way that it can be a public good. The universal encryption as a tool for data security was a decision that we as hackers could take. We think that a hacker’s role is to give support to a new society, to provoke thoughts of a better future to everyone.
This Article (Anonymous Hacker Interview) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author(CoNN) and AnonHQ.com.