Who is Anonymous? What is Anonymous?
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Who is Anonymous? What is Anonymous?

Who is Anonymous? What is Anonymous? Get the facts on the Anonymous movement and "organization" (which isn't really an organization in the traditional sense).

With its recent actions in support of Wikileaks and against Scientology, Anonymous' public profile has been growing immensely. This has left many people asking, who is Anonymous? Or what is Anonymous? The group is shrouded-- by definition-- in anonymity, making it a mystery to outsiders, and fuelling misconceptions about who its members are and what it stands for.

This article provides a quick background on Anonymous, including its membership, its history, and some of its notable activities.

Anonymous

Who are the members of Anonymous?

  • Anonymous is a term used to describe a group of individuals who self-identify with a shared (although loosely defined & nebulous) set of ideals

  • A large segment of Anonymous' membership consists of users of popular internet imageboards and social hubs, most notably 4chan

  • Since membership in Anonymous is a strictly personal and private decision based on shared values, its "membership" is dynamic and ambiguous

  • Anonymous consists of people both young and old, and from various walks of life

What is Anonymous not?

  • A terrorist organization (some argue that it is)

  • A violent organization

  • A traditional organization with defined leaders or members

  • A group with any centralized decision-making abilities

What does Anonymous do?

  • Protest actions and organizations it considers unjust

  • Share information in this regard

The Origin/Meme-ology of "Anonymous"

If you review the "comments" section of any website, you'll likely notice a number of posts by users called "Anonymous". This is the default setting when a user posts something without providing his name or email address.

Over time, the prevalence of these "Anonymous" posts (especially in 4chan), led to the development of the joke/meme that "Anonymous" was an actual person, with thoughts and actions attributed to "him".

What Does Anonymous Believe In?

Since Anonymous has no official membership, no leader, no structure, and no central documents, this is a difficult question to answer. By considering the origin/memeology of the group, some of the entities targeted in its actions, and the trends evident in its methods and communications, the following generalizations can be made:

  • Anonymous believes in free speech and the free sharing of information and ideas
  • Anonymous abhors plagiarism (its loathing of eBaums world-- which is often accused of stealing content-- is an example of this)
  • Anonymous has a strong affinity with internet culture and memes
  • Anonymous is politically engaged
  • Anonymous belives in taking matters into its own hands where it feels that it can

Notable Actions by Anonymous

Anonymous was instrumental in capturing and turning over to Toronto police Chris Forcand, who was charged with various offences including luring children. Users identifying themselves as Anonymous recorded interactions with Forcand in which he allegedly sent them disturbing images and sexually propositioned them, leading to his arrest (see the video below for details).

Anonymous hunts a sex predator:

Anonymous has made it its mission to destroy the Church of Scientology, which it accuses of committing gross human rights violations and fraud (Anonymous alleges that the Church of Scientology is actually no more than a business cynically bankrupting its followers for its own enrichment).

Sometimes known as "Project Chanology", Anonymous' anti-Scientology campaign has consisted of two main prongs; the viral dissemination of anti-Scientology information and propaganda on the internet, and increasingly, "real world" protests outside of Scientology centers.

These actions have illicited a strong counterattack from Scientology, in the form of counter-information, litigation and appeals to civil and criminal law to curtail Anonymous' activities, expose the identity of its members, and protect the church from its actions.

Anonymous threatens to destroy Scientology:

Recently, individuals identifying themselves as Anonymous have acted in support of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. Their actions have most notably included attacks on financial institutions that cut off interactions with Wikileaks.

The attacks have taken the form of Denial of Service Attacks-- essentially, where scores of computers are used to flood the target network with requests, causing the system to (in layman's terms) collapse under the pressure. This tactic is similar to some "old school" methods also used such as prank phone calls and "black faxes" (a black fax is a form of harassment/attack in which all-black sheets are sent to a victim's fax machine, resulting in network congestion and wasted toner).

Summary

Anonymous is a group that is not a group, a movement that is more of a "hive mind" than an organization, a term used to describe a group of people and behaviours that are similar, yet not directly linked.

Photo Credits: Vincent Diamante (protest); "Anonymous.Censor" (mask)

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Comments (4)

Hummm . . .

Ranked #2 in Internet Culture

Sometimes I think back to when I first got internet access, some time circa 1994, and it amazes to me see what the internet has evolved into since then.

Amazes you, and scares the shit out of me!

Thanks for the explanation. I'd heard of Anonymous but didn't have a full understanding.

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