Who Are Anonymous?

Hello I’m Robin and welcome to Alltime Conspiracies This week we are looking at the digital footprint of the aloof and anarchic collective that is Anonymous

Are they the ultimate hacktivist force churned out by Fox News’ beloved ‘Internet Hate Machine’ 4chan? Or are they just a bunch of teenagers performing low-grade internet vandalism? This is Anonymous Declassified Back in 2003, the imageboard 4chan was set up by 14 year old Christopher Poole It was intended to mimic the fast-paced and anonymous posting of Japanese anime and manga forums It was on the ‘Random’ board, infamously known as /b/ [bee], that Anonymous was born sometime in 2004 Over the next couple of years Anonymous engaged in small-scale trolling and mischief

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They targeted individuals who had the misfortune to cross their path In July 2006, Anonymous co-ordinated its first large-scale ‘raid’, or prank, on the social networking service known then as ‘Habbo Hotel’ Rumours had spread on 4chan that Habbo moderators had been banning black people Anonymous responded by blocking access to a swimming pool in Habbo with their avatars – all black men in suits with afros However, they also stood in swastika formations shouting racial slurs

Something of a mixed message Author Parmy Olson says that most 4chan users “appeared to be tech- savvy, bored and emotionally awkward” This may explain the mismatch between the values of those orchestrating raids and those participating There was never any fear of repercussions for raids After all, they were anonymous

In January 2008, Anonymous posted a video online declaring war on the Church of Scientology The Church had demanded that YouTube remove an embarrassing video featuring Tom Cruise citing copyright violations Anonymous saw this as an attack on internet freedom itself Their campaign, known as Project Chanology, marked a turning point Anonymous were now activists and they wanted to effect serious change

First, they attacked Scientology websites using a piece of software called the Low Orbit Ion Cannon This is a standard tool in Distributed Denial Of Service, or DDOS, attacks that overloads pages to bring them down While illegal, some claimed this was such an easy tool to use that raiders took part not knowing the consequences For example, student Brian Mettenbrink was arrested by the FBI in 2010 and handed a $20,000 fine plus a year in prison Anonymous took a big step out of the internet in February 2008 by organising real world protests outside Church of Scientology sites in over 100 cities

Protesters donned the now famous Guy Fawkes mask, actually merchandise from ‘V For Vendetta’, and met once a month The pressure was applied consistently to the previously unscrutinised Church – although protester numbers dwindled by late 2009 After Project Chanology fizzled out, Anonymous continued hacktivist causes that required large online participation ‘Operation Avenge Assange’ struck out at corporations for freezing Wikileaks’ assets Paypal, for instance, claimed the DDOS attacks cost them $5

6 billion ‘Operation Payback’ was a pro-piracy campaign fought against corporations, and their affiliates, who seek to exercise their intellectual property rights ‘Operation Darknet’ exposed 1,589 users of the child pornography site ‘Lolita City’ They shut down a further 41 sites on the dark web Anonymous was crowned as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012

Motherboard reported how at this stage, splinter groups formed that were more technically skilled than the majority of Anonymous members Lulzsec was one such group, composed of longtime Anonymous members Topiary, T-Flow, Sabu and others They worked seemingly for the fun of exposing security flaws By 2013 they had all been arrested for a series of audacious attacks that hit Sony Pictures, EA, News International and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, among others Since then, the ringleader Sabu has helped the FBI stop 300 cyber attacks

Today, the occasional DDOS attack might take down the KKK or Donald Trump’s website for a few hours, but Anonymous has moved away from high profile and wide-ranging cyber attacks Realising that its strengths now lie in its numbers and its marketing abilities, Anonymous has supported the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring In 2013 they initiated the Million Mask March This is an annual event on November 5th, which has taken place in 671 cities However, in 2015 members reported significant drops in the number of attendees

One march fell from 4 thousand people in 2014 to 25 people in 2015 It does seem like some momentum has been lost As an idea, Anonymous can’t really die as long as there are people who wish to take it up But it seems the number of people keeping it alive is not as great as it once was

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