Remember, Remember, the 5th of November—Anonymous Raises the Flag

Anyone who follows the activity of everybody’s favorite Internet boogeyman Anonymous will notice that a prominent element of their graphics happens to be the Guy Fawkes mask from the graphic novel and movie V for Vendetta. As a result, it should be no surprise that Anonymous has also taken to celebrating the anniversary of Guy Fawkes Night.

For a good example of how this “celebration” is taking place read up on Molly Sassmann and John Caseretto’s coverage of how the collective is using the anniversary of Nov 5th to popularize their ideology. No doubt, this entire week will be filled with attempted, successful, and failed hacks of celebrities, large corporations, and others—amid them so far Lady Gaga, Paypal, VMWare, and even NBC-affiliated websites.

Anonymous in 2012: It’s been a wild ride with a lot of bumps

As we approach the end of 2012, it’s a good time to look back on where hacktivism in general has gone—especially with the rise of Anonymous emerging into the public consciousness in 2010 and 2011. If you want a solid examination of the rise of hacktivism across 2011 take a look at this article and infographic, but where has it gone since 2011 even as it exceeded criminal breaches in that same year.

An Anonymous cell rang in the new year by targeting CBS.com and brought down Universal Music over censorship and copyright—using their normal tools of DDoS and website vandalism. The hacktivist collective has always tended to target people who attempt to suppress and manage information (or keep it out of the public eye.)

Even though the collective has become more moralizing towards governments and corporations, they also haven’t forgotten their more simple roots. In mid October, the group went after the unknown harasser who led the teen Amanda Todd into suicide, throwing in against cyberbullying. We’ve seen Anonymous and their apparent original breeding grounds 4chan become part of cyber-vigilante actions when animal abuse and cyberbullying news went viral on social media or YouTube in the past.

There has also been a smattering of webpage vandalism, DDoS attacks, and other events attributed to the Anonymous collective. Often what we see is large corporations being targeted as well as governments involved in violating human rights and information ethics. One in particular happened to be the parliament of Japan—who pushed the ISPs in the country to implement surveillance technology. Not too long after, the Ukraine government got a target painted on them as well for a raid against a popular torrent tracker named Demonoid.

And then there’s Anonymous’s reaction to happened to Megaupload—a tale worth an article all its own.

Although an Anonymous cell also threatened to blackout the Internet on March 31st—as this didn’t make much sense looking at the moral stand that Anonymous takes against people who attack the underlying freedom of the Internet, it did make sense when it didn’t happen.

Anonymous and Wikileaks

It seems likely that an organization who works to upend the baskets of world intelligence organizations and publish information that would otherwise see the light of day would be a natural ally of groups such as hacktivists. However, the relationship between Anonymous and Wikileaks has been rocky as best.

This year, Anonymous has taken credit for leaking numerous documents to Wikileaks including a would-be alliance between the two to expose intelligence incompetence in the U.S. In July, the hacktivist collective also took credit for leaking files from the Syrian government to the wiki of secret information.

Then rolled around October when Wikileaks started to use social media ‘paywalls’ to raise awareness of their operation and Anonymous rebelled against the idea. Cells of the hacktivist collective quickly came out to note their concern and distance themselves from the secrets wiki and more and more cells began to put time and energy into their own version of Wikileaks (few of which have managed to get off the ground due to the decentralized nature of the hactivist group.)

A good example of these attempts is in the from of Par:AnoIA (Potentially Alarming Research: Anonymous Intelligence Agency) set up as a potential hosting site for leaks and fomented in July 2012. Then in late October is the rise of Project TYLER—a whistleblowing platform designed to rival that of Julian Assange’s Wikileaks. One portion also sought to rebuild the famous and extremely useful Pastebin, which began policing posts, with the Anonymous variant called AnonPaste. Sites that can host information protected from government or outside influence could certainly be extremely useful for a decentralized group seeking to make sure some information cannot be erased from the public consciousness.

No doubt the scuffle between Anonymous and Wikileaks as well as Internet data hosting services will continue to rise as countries like China and Russia attempt to control information flow into and out of their countries. The use of VPN (Virtual Private Network) services is on the rise as more governments seek to block websites that spread information and crush cloud-lockers such as Megaupload.

About Kyt Dotson

Technology and civilization walk hand in hand and civilization is nothing without the skin of society, brushing up against itself, speaking strange nothings across dimly lit avenues and computer screens. If we're going to understand ourselves in this digital era, it will be through watching the adoption of technology by people to express themselves as people. I am an anthropologist and an author of science fiction and fantasy--and with my technology, I hope to open up new and exciting worlds that will not just enlighten the humanity of my friends and fans but also educate and enhance the expression of their own personhood. Find more of my work on Google+; send tips to @kytsune.