A Brief History about the Internet's Favourite Lynch Mob
It had been a decade since the world had last heard from them, and then, in late May, they finally broke their silence, or that was how the world saw it.
On May 28th, the largely famous (or rather infamous) group, Anonymous, allegedly broke their silence after the murder of George Floyd, a man who has become a household name and the face of the brewing race war in America.
In a video original titled, “Anonymous Message to the Minneapolis Police Department,” a “spokesperson” for the hacktivist group threatened to expose the police department and their “crimes to the world.”
The video received tremendous attention, making Anonymous more known and at the same time unknown, around the world.
Anonymous began as a hacktivist (a blend of the words “activist” and “hacker") group.
Originally tracing its roots to an imageboard 4chan in 2003, the group is a decentralized band of the world’s most skilled hackers.
The group initially earned the titles of “hackers on steroids” and “domestic terrorists” because of their tendency to prank and troll (the posting of off-topic, provoking material to simply incite anger in viewers).
In their incipient stages, Anonymous was known to hack and troll institutions such as the Church of Scientology and local social networking sites. In 2010, however, the group earned a name for themselves by hacking and bringing down organizations related to copyright infringement. Anonymous continued attacks on larger companies like PayPal, Sony, and Visa. The group also pursued oppressive governments such as Tunisia, where anons (members of the group) created an algorithm that would allow citizens to surf the Internet without being monitored by the incredibly repressive government.
Anonymous has also had a history of involvement with civil issues in America. In 2014, Anonymous allegedly attacked the website of the Cleveland Police Department after the murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by an officer.
In 2015, Anonymous declared cyberwar on the white-supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), by releasing the names and personal information (a method now known as "doxxing") of people who were members of the KKK. Anonymous’s legacy in America continues now in 2020, after its threat to expose the Minneapolis Police Department.
Shortly after this threat was published, the Minneapolis PD’s website crashed as a result of a suspected Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. The attack was deemed primitive for Anonymous, however, considering that a DDoS attack takes down a site by simply creating too much traffic on it. Anonymous also claimed to have hacked the police department’s officers’ personal records; a copy of the alleged records are currently being circulated around the Internet, however, these are considered to be old and rather irrelevant as they seem like they have been compiled from previous security breaches.
Anonymous also released a court affidavit from a case in 2016: Jane Doe v. Donald J. Trump, Jeffrey Epstein. The case itself was voluntarily dropped by the plaintiff, Jane Doe before it reached trial. To the eyes of many, the affidavit does not prove anything except that the plaintiff was only 13 years old when the alleged crime took place; however, the release does cast doubts on the sitting American president, doubts that seem to have only worsened with time.
The authenticity of the document is yet to be verified, but if it does come out as being valid, the affidavit can be incredibly damaging to the current president’s chance of winning the reelection; a verified document can conclusively group President Trump with Jeffery Epstein in a criminal context and more specifically as a pedophile.
This can be detrimental to his already suffering reputation, which has already faced multiple setbacks due to his long history of sexual assault allegations and trials.
Focusing on Anonymous, it is important to note that this article has repeatedly used the word “allegedly” to emphasize the nonexistent nature of the group. Anonymous does not have a leader, nor does it have a membership process, nor a face; they are simply there. A group of hackers with similar ideologies working together to bring down what they deem as injustices meted out by corrupt systems.
Over the course of their run, Anonymous has revealed somewhat of a patterned ideology: an ideology that they believe is fair. Sometimes, their understanding of justice closely resembles the general public’s perception of justice.
It can be hard to pinpoint exactly what they mean by justice when you take into account the fact that “they” do not technically exist as a physical entity. Oftentimes, this can paint the group in a more negative light; their lack of a literal and metaphorical body makes them seem less trustworthy and less credible. Some of their previous actions further add to the loss of credibility when viewed through a critical eye.
Currently, it is difficult to even say conclusively if any of the multiple Twitter “anon” accounts are actually managed by Anonymous. Twitter's largest Anonymous affiliated account (@YourAnonCentral) has drawn flak in the past for a cluster of misogynistic and transphobic tweets. It is also widely believed that the group does not own or operate any official Twitter accounts. Frankly, it is difficult to say anything conclusive about the group. Their decentralization has become their greatest weapon, but also their greatest weakness. A paradox of sorts being decentralized while allowing Anonymous to act as the cyber-heroes the world perceives them to also cause many critics to claim that the group is not to be trusted as a source of credible information due to their lack of structure and methods.
Regardless of how the public has received them, Anonymous has always stayed true to one statement: “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
By: Sanjana Sharma.