Blake’s Post about that bill against anonymous posting got me curious about things so I’ve been looking around, getting a feel for what folks reactions are online and checking out some of the legal issues. Anyway, in my curiosity I’ve stumbled across something that gives me pause and presents me with a bit of a problem. They’re a group self-dubbed “Anonymous” and I don’t quite know what to do with them.
From what I can gather, Anonymous is a rather decentralized group, there doesn’t seem to be any hierarchy or leaders or even qualifications for membership apart from deciding that you are one. My guess would be its a blanket term that covers a bunch of smaller individual group. Yet they still manage to act as a whole and have demonstrated on several occasions their ability to make an impact both on and off line.
On the one hand, they seem to be doing some good things.
On December 7, 2007, Global News ran a story on the arrest of an alleged child predator by the name of Chris Forcand. The story said that the police investigation of Forcand began when detectives were contacted by a “self described internet teen vigilante group called anonymous,” who had already been tracking Forcand. Apparently Forcand had approached some members of the group and they began a campaign against him. Eventually Anonymous was able to dicover Forcand’s identity and location and contacted Toronto police, who set up a sting operation and arrested Forcand.
Global News Footage Story in Toronto Sun
At the other end of things, Amonymous hardly seems to be an entirely altruistic group. Anonymous has reportedly been behind less benevolent movements, including the Hacking of MySpace pages, “raids” on several forums, online gaming networks and other sites, and a massive campaign to spoil the ending to the Harry Potter books. (Okay… that one makes me laugh… but it’s still copyright infringement!)
Fox News Ran a story on Anonymous referring to them as an “Internet Hate Machine” and “Domestic Terrorists.” A writer for “Wired News” however calls the group nothing more than “Supremely bored 15 year olds.” And claims that the fox new story is the best prank the group has ever played.
In any case, these don’t always seem to be the nicest of guys. One of the groups slogans reads: “Anonymous: Because none of us are as cruel as all of us.”
The biggest notice Anonymous has gotten by far has been for it’s recent self proclaimed “war” against the church of Scientology dubbed “Project Chanology.” On January 12, 2008, a video produced by the Church of Scientology was leaked to the Internet and uploaded to YouTube. The Church of Scientology claimed copyright violation and requested that YouTube remove the video. Soon after, Anonymous released a YouTube video declaring their campaign against the church of Scientology. Anonymous attacked the church of Scientology with DOS attacks, prank calls and black faxes. In a subsequent YouTube video they called for protests outside of Scientology centers and on February 10, 2008 some 7,000 people world wide showed up to protest outside of Scientology centers in 93 cities worldwide. Cities in which 100 or more participated included Dublin, Ireland, Atlanta, Georgia, Dallas and Austin, Texas, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, Toronto, Canada, Clearwater, Florida, St. Louis, Missouri, New York City and London, England. Another rally is scheduled for March 15. Beware the ides?
This gives a pretty astounding picture of what this underground group is capable of. So the question is, how do we react to this? Yeah, the group is certainly responsible for some good things, no one likes a pedophile, but from what I’ve seen they can be pretty volatile as well, and is it really a good idea to encourage online vigilantism? At the same time, I can’t help but think of that bill against online anonymity. I don’t want my full name showing up places online, and if a bill like that managed to actually gain some support… well I’m pretty sure these Anonymous guys would fight it and fight it hard. That’s good for me, so I kinda want these guys around. But maybe it’s groups like this that inspired the bill in the first place.
Or am I way off base? Are these just supremely bored 15 year olds? Tell me what you think.