I intend to present the online community Anonymous. The makeup of the group, in its current form, is probably best described as Internet “vigilantes”, who believe in free Internet speech and an un-monitored Internet. Although, it’s important to note that some Anons have very much opposed their name’s association with “Hacktivism”, and prefer to be thought of as a group motivated only by the “lolz”.
I think an understanding of Anonymous is important for citizens of the interwebs, especially as Anonymous begins to play a larger and larger role in activism across the globe. The number of operations (or “Ops”) that they have taken on has grown dramatically since their inception in 2006, as well as the potential impact of said Ops. As an Internet community, they are remarkably fascinating: they have no formal structure or leadership, there is no strict idea or badge of membership, and their motivations and ideas are wildly variable and multi-faceted. One Anon described Anonymous as a pack of birds flying about, where one bird leads the pack in one instant, but a new bird may lead all or a portion of the pack in the next. This unique quality of Anonymous makes it a very interesting community to study.
Most likely, the only unifying idea behind most/all Anons is that the Internet should be available to everyone and one’s speech on the Internet should not be filtered by anyone. Although, interestingly, Anonymous’ opposition to individuals’ or groups’ attempt to moderate this speech often involves DDoS’ing, which is effectively moderating speech. Thus, some refer to them as “the final boss of the Internet”. This is just one of the many contradictory aspects of Anonymous that makes them a great community for study.