• Group of “Internet Vigilantes”
• To understand who they are, must understand their history
• Imageboard 4chan in 2006.
• Imagine “Anonymous” poster was just one person
• I did my research on the online community “Anonymous”
⁃ Wouldn’t really refer to them as a “hacking” group, more like Internet vigilantes.
⁃ To understand who they are, really need to understand their history
• Anonymous was born in the unfiltered online imageboard 4chan.org in 2006.
⁃ 4chan is organized into topics, called boards, the /b/ board was for “Random” content.
⁃ The idea of /b/ was to post things that could not be unseen. Brewing place for trolls.
⁃ Individuals could post as “Anonymous”, and the entity got its name from the thought that there could just be one entity “Anonymous” posting all this stuff
• At their core, they were trolls.
⁃ Social networking site called Habbo Hotel (you create an Avatar, walk around in a world. Rudimentary second life). Rumor of admins blocking dark skinned users.
⁃ People on /b/ heard, and all dressed up as the same avatar. Form Swastikas, block pool entrance.
⁃ There was a white nationalist, Hal Turner, who apparently was targeting a member of Anon
⁃ DDoS’d him, pizzas, sent utilities he’d have to pay for.
⁃ Ran him out of business.
⁃ Hacked his site revealed he was an FBI informant
⁃ So both of these are trolling, but have a small moral component to them. These people thought they were doing something moral.
• Everything changed with Project Chanology.
• This is where Anonymous got mainstream press.
⁃ Recall Tom Cruse video leaked, scientology DMCA’d Youtube and everyone who posted it.
• Anonymous saw this as a censorship of the Internet; fought back.
• They DDoS’d, they did phone calls to clog up their hotlines, they sent black faxes (to drain ink).
• For the first time, they did physical protests.
• Because Scientology is known for stalking and harassing their critics, Anons needed to protect their identity in person. So this is where the Guys Fawkes mask came from.
• Interestingly, Church of Scientology has used methods similar to Anonymous to get its way. In order to escape tax exception (become a religious org), it got members to file thousands of lawsuits against individual IRS employees.
• This resulted in a cultural rift in Anonymous
• Original group in it for the lolz, but now there was an influx of Hacktivists (people who were just motivated by something moral)
• Some Anons wanted to restore their bad reputation by posting rapidly flashing animated gifs on epilepsy forums.
• But it seems like the Hacktivists mostly won out.
• Recall Paypal withdrawing donation acceptance for Wikileaks, so Anons attacked them.
• Also attacked HBGary, and revealed HBGary’s proposal with Palantir to leak misinformation via Wikileaks. Proposal was for Bank of America, who somehow knew Wikileaks had docs on them.
• Important to note that a very small portion of Anonymous is technically able. Many are just people who want to make a difference and using tools made by technically able.
• This leads us to how it relates to what we’ve talked about in class.
• Lee Raine’s Networked individual shows dramatic increase of users online
⁃ Really means a change in the way information is spread
• Which means new fronts for rebellion and opposition to rebellion
• For example, Egyptian and Tunisian people. The internet played a role in their rebellions.
⁃ Anons were involved with setting up dial up service. Tweeting on others’ behalf.
• Astra Taylor talks about the Debt collective and a group of people organizing to refuse to pay off their debts because they don’t think these debts are warranted
• Have this wonderful quote “If you owe the bank a thousand dollars…”
• Similar to Anonymous because it’s about the masses “owning” the man.
⁃ The idea that 10,000 angry people can send a message online against billion dollar corporations.
⁃ The idea that the masses have ultimate control, they just need to wake up and organize.
• Going back to HBGary, Anonymous targeted HBGary because it was publishing false information about Anonymous’ “leadership”
⁃ Anonymous (specifically lulzsec, a much more technical group related to Anonymous) leaked all of HBGary’s emails, revealing the proposal with Palantir
⁃ Actually wanted to damage Wikileaks by tarnishing and threatening Glenn Greenwald. Which was completely absurd.
• Glenn obviously key figure in Snowden leaks.
• Also relates to Journalism post-snowden, with organizations going to very questionable lengths to silence leaks.
• Tor is an essential tool for both the technical and the non-technical players in Anonymous.
• Actually what grants them as-close-as-possible Anonymity.
Six degrees of separation:
• So PGP, which stands for Pretty Good Privacy, is a mechanism by which I can establish a secure communication with another individual (using encryption).
• Relies on verifying identity of third-parties, through “web of trust”
• Essentially, I need to trust someone who trusts you in order to talk to you.
• Thus, would be impractical if people had to make many many hops to the person they want to talk to.
• PGP is one of the many tools necessary for Anons to talk securely and untampered.
• Memes are sort of used by Anonymous as an informal way of identity verification and drawing boundaries between who is an Anon and who isn’t.
• Sort of means memes sort of are the language of Anons.
• They also both share their birth place: 4chan.
⁃ 4chan was purportedly responsible for creating or popularizing many popular memes, such as Rick rolling, Chocolate Rain, and lolcatz.
• Anonymous isn’t an entity or website, it also is an idea, and by Dawkin’s description, it would be considered a meme.
• Zuckerman really wanted to spur inter-cultural political involvement with globalvoices.org
• Because Anonymous is really an international collective, that means that they are at least trying to get involved politically with other cultures.