As mysterious a network they’re reputed to be, the hacker group ANONYMOUS was organized in 2003 on 4chan, an image-based bulletin board and safe haven to Internet subculture. These “hacktivists,” as they are often dubbed, are comprised of individuals (both online and off) whose primary activity was once a form of Internet trolling. Today, Anonymous is a decentralized effort which speaks truth to power through organized cyber attacks.
When in public, members of Anonymous, or Anons, can sometimes be identified by their donning of Guy Fawkes masks. This symbol has been stylized several times over, but the pattern of choice for Anonymous was seemingly adopted from V for Vendetta. Like the theme of this graphic novel (and eventual movie), the mask has become synonymous with protest and is now even sometimes referred to as the “Anonymous mask.”
Their early notable achievements included hacks which targeted the Church of Scientology. Collaborations soon followed which saw the group taking on government agencies in the United States and Israel, illegal websites involving children, copyright protection agencies, hate groups and multi-national corporations like PayPal and MasterCard. They’ve broken the Internet a time or two, and even took down the GoDaddy website in 2012 for what they perceived as support for censoring and controlling the Internet.
The hacker group Anonymous can be merciless once they’ve identified their target. They pride themselves on being rebels and have publicly supported WikiLeaks and the Occupy movement. Hailed by some as heroes and others as nothing more than a group of anarchists, their cyber attacks have led to the arrest of members in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Holland and Spain. They’ve kept a low profile as of late, but made Time 100’s list of influential people the same year they took down GoDaddy. They also, at one point, leveraged PR and social media to create a respectable buzz.
While credited for creating the hacktivist community, the very nature of the organization as a leaderless and diverse one may have underscored its inability to sustain itself. At times the community has been at odds and unable to find common ground for what causes to take up. They also suffered a devastating blow when several government-authorized groups began to represent themselves as members to sabotage the organization from within.
The Hacker Group Anonymous Today
Ironically, attempts to purge Anonymous of fake members led to the departure of its most genuine and essential counterparts. This effectively diminished the group’s cogency. Their attacks began to wane which led to a loss in credibility and public support. Anonymous is rarely heard from these days. Annual events like their Million Mask March (sometimes referred to as “Operation Vendetta”) is said to be a shadow of its former self.
An argument can be made that the establishments of the Western World were able to take them down. The group won many battles in its heyday and brought light to a number of important issues. But “the powers that be” (TPTB) eventually won the war through a developed mistrust among the group’s original, highly-skilled membership. The hacker group Anonymous was said to have become a victim of its own success, with failure soon to follow.
They briefly resurfaced during the 2016 elections, supporting the WikiLeaks organizion and outwardly sharing their disdain for then-US Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. The ordeal would eventually put Anonymous in a tricky political situation, with members split between which presidential candidate to support. It was only a matter of time before things would begin to unravel again. The group retains their ability to reorganize and we can only hope they do so in the coming years. Regardless of what you think about them personally, they were a necessary voice and shed light on the important issues we face today.