Over the last few weeks, the actions of hacktivist group Anonymous seem to have gone into overdrive, with three separate cyber-attacks targeted at biotech giant Monsanto, members of the fa
Over the last few weeks, the actions of hacktivist group Anonymous seem to have gone into overdrive, with three separate cyber-attacks targeted at biotech giant Monsanto, members of the far-right English Defence League, government and media websites in protest-engulfed Turkey.
These attacks are a continuation of a long digital war against a myriad of corporations, governments and organisations, yet few have been able to agree on the role Anonymous plays in our society. Endless terms and labels are thrown around from all sides of the political spectrum—terrorists, vigilantes, freedom fighters and trouble makers are just a few. In 2012, Time gave Anonymous a new label to add to the list—one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Most Influencial people in the world
One of their first, and most infamous, battles began in 2008. ‘Project Chanology’ vociferously targeted the church of Scientology. Other similar cyber-attacks have been directed towards the Westboro Baptist Church, child pornography sites, copyright protection agencies and many more, as well as international corporate conglomerates such as Visa, PayPal and Sony. They have also publicly and actively supported WikiLeaks and the Occupy movement.
Quinn Norton of Wired wrote about the difficulty in defining Anonymous in 2009, an analysis which is perhaps even more pertinent today:
“Like Alan Moore’s character V who inspired Anonymous to adopt the Guy Fawkes mask as an icon and fashion item, you’re never quite sure if Anonymous is the hero or antihero. The trickster is attracted to change and the need for change, and that’s where Anonymous goes. And when they do something, it never goes quite as planned. The internet has no neat endings.”
Even those that support this form of cyber-vigilantism and the causes which Anonymous fight for seem to have a problem with the issue of anonymity. With complete anonymity undoubtedly comes a lack of control and accountability.
Lack of control and accountability
They are, at their very core, fighting for a movement of the free flow of information and holding those in power accountable. But what will happen as they become increasingly powerful? Who will freely distribute information about their actions? Who will hold them accountable?
Are we already witnessing inklings of a God complex developing within the organisation? Take a look at a statement they issued ahead of their attacks on members of the EDL:
“You have angered us considerably and summoned our wrath irrevocably. You will fall, we can say this with complete confidence. We are everywhere, you cannot hide, you cannot win.”
They might as well have threatened to smite them down with bolts of lightning. Saying that, what they are capable of produces far more devastating consequences for their targets than lightening ever could.
Yet despite this, I support their actions for the most part. Yes they are revolutionary, yes they are potentially dangerous, yes we can’t control them. However, in light of news about the PRISM scandal and the extent to which governments have been spying on their citizens, could Anonymous be the only realistic weapon ordinary citizens have in fighting against a Big Brother world?