“Remember, remember, the 5th of November”, the tune would go on in V for Vendetta; the movie that portrayed a battle against an oppressive regime known as Norsefire, who, in a Nazi fashion, would jail homosexuals and political dissidents.
For those who have seen the movie, ‘Anonymous’ would most probably seem very similar – without the bit where the English parliament is blown up. A hacktivist group formed in 2003, Anonymous is an online/offline anarchic global community that strongly opposes Internet censorship (and surveillance), governmental corruption, and scientology. Their members can sometimes be seen wearing Guy Fawkes masks, just like the main character of the movie (and then the entire population when they rose up against the regime), and are sometimes seen as instigators of several protests, including Occupy Wall Street.
The group has a dual nature – just like any great comic superhero. On the one hand they are vigilantes who are outside the law. Yet many would undoubtedly see them as more than just trouble– makers, but heroes. ‘Operation Darknet’ was initiated in October 2011 to weed out the remnants of child pornography from the dark corners of the Internet, Anonymous posting the usernames of 1,589 members of Lolita City, a hidden child porn website.
Pirates of the virtual world, rejoice, for Anonymous is your friend. In January 2012, in response to Megaupload (a notorious website used to illegally stream movies and TV series) being taken down, Anonymous took down the sites of the Department of Justice, FBI, Motion Pictures Association of America and many others. The group is also responsible for Cyber-attacks on the Pentagon and has threatened to destroy Facebook.
It’s most recent nemesis seems to be the Ugandan government, hacking various governmental websites (in response to their anti-homosexuality bill), leaving messages such as “Citizens and government of Uganda, take heed, Anonymous is calling”. They also threatened to adopt a ‘scorched earth policy’ for Ugandan online infrastructure (basically shutting everything down), all in defense of LGBT rights.
Anonymous fills in the gap where many western governments seem to be unwilling (or simply have no power) to engage with such regimes to stop them from passing populist laws that would harm a group of individuals.
But what would happen if Anonymous – or better said, one part of Anonymous (as the organization is formed by members which simply take the identity upon themselves with no control over each other’s actions whatsoever) – would decide to hold views which are not as progressive? What if they would think that homosexuality is actually a sin and decide to find and publish the names and addresses of homosexuals in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where it is punishable by death?
I cannot but enjoy the damage this group brings upon regimes who would stone people on the street for holding hands. Yet at the same time, the sheer amount of damage they could do if their views were not ‘right’ is frightening; such is the anarchic nature of Anonymous. The Internet is far more dangerous than people would like to consider.
Especially when anyone can be Anonymous.