By Danielle Andreani, Trending Writer
Although Anonymous is currently known for their online campaign against ISIS, their origins date back to the early 2000s when their “causes” were much smaller. Most accounts trace the beginnings of Anonymous back to 4chan, an online bulletin board where anyone can share images or comments anonymously. The group consists of hackers with a variety of specialties ranging from the ability to shut down networks to retrieving private data. There is no central command and the exact number of members is unknown, making it difficult to know the scope and depth of the organization. Their earlier years seemed to focus more on providing themselves entertainment rather than fighting for any social cause. According to Tech Insider, one of the first known hacks of Anonymous was on the online game, “Habbo Hotel.” Their intent was to troll the game by doing things such as adding extra characters so actual players would not be able to enter certain areas of the game.
In 2008, Anonymous broke into the limelight with an attack on the Church of Scientology. An internal video, featuring actor Tom Cruise, was leaked to YouTube and the Church of Scientology requested the video be removed due to copyright infringement. Anonymous decided to protest this action by implementing “Project Chanology”: a series of attacks on the Church’s websites, pranks on the call centers, and releases of sensitive documents to the public. This incident already marked the first use of Anonymous’ signature phrase: “Knowledge is free. We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.” Since then, the organization’s missions have turned toward more political causes.
“Operation Payback” is another one of Anonymous’ more public attacks, occurring in 2010. This mission was an effort to protest the ban against donations to WikiLeaks, implemented by PayPal, MasterCard, Visa and other financial institutions. WikiLeaks is a whistle-blowing website that releases sensitive documents to the public from governments and other organizations. Anonymous took issue with the ban and brought down the companies’ websites, instead displaying the following message to viewers: “You’ve tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung.” This attack cost PayPal an estimated $5.6 million.
While Anonymous has no central form of command or ideology per se, they are united in their opposition to online censorship. They are a group of hacktivists, using technology to protest against censorship and other perceived injustices. There are people who characterize them as cyber terrorists and a threat, and others that applaud them for fighting against injustice and corruption. No matter which side, it cannot be denied that Anonymous has proven time and time again that they are an immense force to be reckoned with once they decide to retaliate.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 8th print edition.
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