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The origin of Anonymous
About 10 and a half years ago, a website called "4chan" was created by a 15 year old Swedish guy, called Christopher Poole. On this website you could post anything you wanted, from homemade cookie recipes to "how to clean your m4 assault rifle" tutorials. It was a forum for all the things that were creative or original. After a while the site became so popular, that separate pages started to pop up, like a cooking page, or anime/manga page, or a sports page. Well, one of these pages was the /b/ page. On this page it was the goal to post the most random and disturbing things you wanted. This page became totally different from the rest of the 4chan pages. This page had a totally different audience, which had special jokes to identify others of the 4chan/b/ community, which are called 'memes'.
Almost everybody knows of memes. The most popular memes are memes like the "can I haz cheeseburger?" or the "me gusta" memes, the trol meme, and the 'LOL' meme.
These people mostly trolled other people. Trolling is pranking someone with the purpose of getting that person as mad as possible. So as a group they would go online and prank other forums or gamers. One of the most well known of their pranks was that they would go online on Habbo.com all dressed the same, a black person with a huge afro and in a suit, and they would block the entrance of the swimming pool area, and they would make huge swastica's and stuff, and people would get really pissed at them, and they would find this stuff hilarious. They would say: "Wow, you're getting this angry over a symbol that I just drew. You need to rethink your priorities."
By doing these pranks they noticed what power they had just because of their numbers. They just went over to certain websites and post a lot of dirty comments. But at a certain point it became a little more organized and they went after a guy named Hal Turner. This man was so racist, it is unbelieveable. He was a neo-nazi who was very popular online and 4chan heard about him after this guy was being an asshole against a relatively known 4chan user. So, the /b/ page found out and just starting trolling for the fun of it, but then they saw they had the moral high ground, so they could get people on their side. And the combination of the fact that he was a neo-nazi and he came after a 4chan guy made him the ultimate target for the /b/ guys.
They started slow, just prank calling him and stuff, but then they started DDoS'ing him, which means just overflowing the site with other users. You can compare it with, if you wanted for some reason to prevent people to get in the bus, so you would hire a large amount of people to get in the bus so that people who actually want to get in to the bus can't do that anymore. And after they had DDoS'ed him they started pranking him in real life. They sent a lot of pizzas to his house. They set him up for an escort on craigslist, and they sent a lot of industrial packages to his house, which he still had to pay for. By doing this they made it impossible for the man to pay for his radioshow and that took him off the internet. Of course he was very pissed and the 4channers loved this.
But it wasn't over yet. They got some serious hackers and hacked into his mail account, and they found out he also was an FBI informant, and that didn't go very well together with his Neo-Nazi'ism of course. From that moment on, everything started to go wrong for Harold Turner. The media found out he had threatened federal judges and manipulated people, and after this everybody was looking at Anonymous as a suddenly 'good' force instead of just pranksters. And this is to me the beginning of the organisation Anonymous.
The war on ScientologyIt's Januari 2008, and Anonymous is becoming less of a culture of the internet that just made pranks and more becoming the internet's first army. Anonymous is getting strong, and then Scientology comes along. A video had leaked out of the church of Scientology, and in the video Tom Cruise was talking about the secrets of Scientology, and a whole lot of other stuff. This video was discussed worldwide and it was on a lot of websites. The church of Scientology had reacted really fast to this, and started to threaten every website with the video with lawsuits if they didn't pull down the video. Anonymous saw this and was also launched its counter attack by posting the video everywhere. They had the feeling that Scientology was censoring their internet and the Anonymous couldn't just let that happen. So they got the original source of the video, and just posted them everywhere. The surprising thing was, that they were pulling them down so fast again, it was only a matter of minutes. One of the first sites to not pull them down, was Gawker. It had the video on it's front page, and with a comment under it stating that the FBI would have to come take the servers out of their building if they wanted to pull this video down, because it was newsworthy. And because they were sick of this abuse of rights, to deny the news to reach the society.
Anonymous found out Scientology was their perfect nemesis, because they were the exact opposites of each other. The church of scientology was very secret, and Anonymous hated secrets. Anybody was able to join Anonymous anonymously, and Scientology was very fond of it's identities, etc. There was a lot more, of course, but the biggest thing that Anonymous hated about Scientology was probably the fact that they were so full of themselves. And anybody who had anything against them was immediately a criminal or a drug dealer or an insane person or somthing along those lines. Anonymous didn't like this at all, and anybody from the outside who knew both groups knew this was going to go wrong. Mostly because they were two pretty weird groups. The church of Scientology doesn't need any explaining on that point, and Anonymous came forth from a forum which had to people to post things which cannot be unseen. So everybody on the outside thought this was going to be very interesting.
So they all got together and started to troll Scientology like they had done with Han Parker. They called the main scientology lines with the most retarded questions, just to keep them busy. They shared all the Scientology's fax numbers and they sent a very large amount of black pieces of paper to their faxes, so their ink would run dry. They sent pizza boxes to they adresses. And Scientology wasn't expecting it, and they weren't built to withstand such an attack.
During the attack on Scientology there was a video, in which Anonymous refers to itself as 'Anonymous' for one of the first times. Shortly after there was another video uploaded by Anonymous, which was the 'call to arms video'. In this video Anonymous asked from people to get into the streets on February the 10th and go to every Scientology building in every major city in the world in the name of free speech and basic human rights.
Because this video was watched so many times, there was another video uploaded to Youtube, called 'the code of conduct'. In this video people were asked to dress properly, and cover their faces, because the church of Scientology would try to identify and follow them, as they have done before with other people that stood in their way.
That was where the use of the 'Guy fox mask' came from. Of course it originated from the movie 'V for Vendetta" but now it was used as the thing that made them able to recognize each other. They chose this mask because in the final scene in the movie 'V for Vendetta'. Anonymous recognized itself and what it stands for in that final scene, so they chose that mask as a universal thing for Anonymous.
But still, they still remained to be a group of nerds and geeks from some weird forum, so they didn't think people would actually get outside and rebel against the church of Scientology. They still had that stereotype in their heads of those 30 year old guys still living with their parents. They were very sceptic about the idea of that community, those nerds going out on the streets and really protest against such a large organization as the church of Scientology
10th of February 2008.
" Video footage:"This is me on the way there. I haven't slept, very fucking tired." I remember going to the park that day, and it's really fucking early in the morning, which I thought was a bad idea. And I'm smoking a cigarette and looking around and like where the fuck is everybody? Video footage:" So here I am, sitting in Bryant park. I'm waiting for the other anons to show up." And I remember thinking like: "Ow fuck, am I gonna be the only one in the park? Am I going to walk to Scientology with fucking six or seven people which totally defeats the entire purpose of this because now they could single me out?" You know? And then I get up and start walking around and I see a lot of green balloons over there for some reason. On the other side of the park, there was like fucking 200 people. There were guy fox masks everywhere. And I was like: "Holy shit this is huge!" Video footage: "There are a fucking lot of us. That's pretty good. I had no idea how many Anons there were until we started moving." Says Mike Vitale, or Sethdood as he was called online.
This was in New York. In Sydney they were expecting about 50 people, but before 10 AM, before it was time there were already way more people than that. Some time later there was about 250 people there, and the police estimating even more. And everybody started asking themselves: "Wow, what just happened?"
Adelaide, Australia. Again way more people than what they estimated the previous day on 4chan. Over 200 people stood there. Tel Aviv, Israel, just had gotten its first Scientology building only a week before. There were Israelis and Palestinians at the protest holding both flags up. Even, at a certain point they switched flags and held each others' flags up. Then London, United Kingdom. There were 600 people there, and the police wasn't happy with this. Berlin, Germany. Clearwater, Florida. But one of the biggest ones was Los Angeles, which had almost 1000 people. Portland, Oregon. Houston, Texas. Int total they had more than 10,000 people worldwide. It really was over 9000 people.
Suddenly, people noticed they weren't alone until you get to 4chan. Suddenly there are 400 to 500 others. They finally met their own people. Everybody knew the same jokes. Everybody had the same interests. And everybody had spent a lot of time on 4chan.
Of course, Scientology tried to fight back. They posted a video, saying everything Anonymous claimed to do was wrong. And of course they tried to find people, and started following them. People were getting threatened with lawsuits. A lot of letters from very expensive lawyers, etc. These old tactics of spreading fear and threatening people was completely ineffective. Most people who got such letters actually framed them and put them on their walls. Because the didn't care about you getting in jail. They used the legal system primarily to make you stop, and to get you arrested and thrown into jail.
One of the people who used a program to DDoS the Scientology page, was Brian Mettenbrink. He used the program and half a year later, the FBI knocked on the door at his parents' house, where he had used the program half a year ago. He wasn't there and his parents directed the FBI to the house where he lived at that moment. The FBI went to his house, and asked if they could have a friendly conversation with him. "And I had the most uncomfortable friendly conversation I've had in my life." he says smiling in an interview. At the moment he had no idea why they were here, so he confessed that he had used the program to DDoS the Scientology's website. What he didn't know is that you can get a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $1,000.- fine for using that program. He didn't know it was illegal. He actually got one year in prison, and one year supervised release.
After this point Anonymous starts to take a rather serious turn. Because there is no leader in Anonymous. There are operators on the forums but the leading position switches very quickly from operator to operator. Homocarnula, an operator for 4chan, likes to compare it to a swarm of birds. One moment fly in one direction, but when one bird changes direction, and the whole swarm follows that one bird. A second later the swarm follows yet again another bird. So at this point there is a group in Anonymous saying: "Stop ruining our bad name!" Because they want to keep trolling, and this group even posted .gif files on several epilepsia pages and forums, of this flashing screen. So people who saw this fell off their chairs and had a seizure. But this was only for a short while. At this moment Anonymous got really serious and started Operation Titstorm.
Later, the Motion Picture Association hired an Indian software firm to DDoS Piratebay, and Anonymous DDoSed the Motion Picture Association, as well as some other companies. Again this was an act against internet censorship.
The dark side of Anonymous
As there is a certain 'good' side to Anonymous, there is a 'bad' side too. Anonymous had multiple sub groups that also do bad things, or are just trolling everybody and hack for the sheer enjoyment of hacking, like Lulzsec. They hacked pretty much, anything and everything that could be hacked just for the fun of it. They hacked ATM data, and numerous credit card numbers. They DDoSed numerous sites. They even hacked a news site, and posted an article about Tupac living an easy live in New Zealand now, and that he faked his death just to get away from the press. They were just going around the internet and did whatever they wanted. It was almost like they had no rules.
One of the other things Anonymous did was hacking Sony. They did this because Sony was sueing people because they were enjoying entertainment that had previously been public. But then one anon hacked Playstation Network, stealing all the private data from the consumers. And I think could have been done much better. Better in a way that the consumer wouldn't been hurt as much, still proving their point.
Of course there were a lot of other bad things that Anonymous and their sub groups did, but I couldn't find any others that were worth mentioning if you compare to the other things they did. The other things they did were similar to the things they did back in the day, when they went online in video games and trolled people. If there are other things they did, that are worth mentioning for the sake of choosing if Anonymous is a good or a bad organization.
Now, in January 2007 Wikileaks really took off with about 1.2 Billion files and its first big leak in 2008. Wikileaks was of course something big for Anonymous because it leaked governmental secrets into the public, and I think this is the greatest forms of the freedom of speech, both in the 'great' as 'good' way as in the furthest way you are able to use the freedom of speech. Anonymous thinks people should be able to know everything, and they hate secrets. You can imagine that when PayPal, Mastercard and Amazon pulled services for Wikileaks, Anonymous would do something about it, because now Wikileaks suddenly had no income. People and mostly Anonymous got really angry because they discovered that those companies, Mastercard, Amazon and PayPal, were perfectly fine with donating to Neo-Nazi groups and other groups that aren't socially accepted. You can pay to the KKK and others, but to Wikileaks? No, you can't pay to Wikileaks with your Mastercard. And of course, Anonymous DDoSed PayPal, operation Payback happened. The number of participants in this operation were enormous, and they succeeded a few times to actually take their site down.
Tunisia and Egypt
On the second of January, Wikileaks was blocked in Tunisia, and Anonymous did some DDoSing, and they found a lot of info and with that info they helped the revolution take over Tunisia. But then they turned to Egypt. I think we all know what happened in Egypt recently with Mubarak and that whole situation. Well, what most of you probably don't know is that Anonymous was pretty involved in this revolution. One of the things they did was that they would receive reports of the situation from people who couldn't access Twitter from their servers, and they would report for them.
But Egypt really touched some anons emotionally because they were seeing live, through the live feeds they helped set up, that the Egyptians were getting massacred by machine guns. This was the first time cyber-activism touched people like they had experienced with Egypt. And somewhere between August 27th and 28th the Egyptian government starts shutting down the internet in the whole country. Suddenly, it got very quiet on Twitter. And you know bad things go on in the dark places. And that was the moment the Internet got really angry again, not only Anonymous. This was the moment where they said: "Go fuck yourself. You wanna turn down the internet? Fine, the people on the internet will show them how to turn it back on." Mercedes Haefer says. And they started to set up connections with the people on the ground, and they even googled some things like protection against teargas and everything. They DDoSed government websites and took them down. And when Mubarak left, it was a "Hell Yeah" moment. This proved that people can rise up and make a change. Anonymous was actually thanked by a lot of people.
Sentenced for 15 years
A lot of people have been convicted for participating in these actions by Anonymous. By DDoSing a site,or participating in an action to DDoS a site, basically you say: "I'm not okay with what this site stands for or what this site is saying." to that site or the company that runs the site. You don't only say that, but this also says you are willing to risk 15 years in federal prison, because that is the average for these situations. It's ridiculous to think, to realise, that the average for a pedophile is 11 years in prison. This is, I think, one of the most ridiculous things on this planet right now. Especially if you realise it's just protesting. There is no damage done to the sites getting DDoSed, There are no people harmed. As I said in the begin of the article, I think that people need to get their priorities straight.
What do you think?
So, What do you think? Is Anonymous an orginization with good or bad instances? Are they chaotic good or chaotic evil?
Are they serious hacktivists, or just a group of internet pranksters?