Anonymous: freedom is #TangoDown

Their bio simply states: We are Anonymous. We are legion. We never forgive, We never forget, Expect us. 

Location: Right behind you.

[You can find a longer backstory on the wired website.]

There is something epic and fascinating in the current battles between Anonymous (and others) and the US government and, by proxy, various arms of the western capitalist system revolving around issues pertaining to the balance between freedom of speech, perceived encroachments on civil liberties, intellectual property and commercial rights.

But globally, while Anonymous is well known for involvement with the Occupy movement and Wikileaks, it also  has been active in a much wider theatre of operations monitoring police brutality in the US and the various protests against mainly Arab governments in the so-called Arab Spring, particularly in Tunisia, but also in Egypt and elsewhere. Over the last year Anonymous has also targeted the Spanish police, supported anti-corruption protests in India and taken down a series of child pornography websites publishing the details of those who frequented the sites. Defining who are actually Anonymous activists isn’t straightforward since it is a virtual community where some participants merely offer their PC’s processing power up for use whilst others direct the activities and select targets.

While it is widely, and inaccurately, reported as hacking (in the sense of breaching website security to access or manipulate data), Anonymous’ large-scale operations are more typically DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks designed to take websites off-line by overloading them. In the most recent campaigns, #OpMegaUpload and the anti-ACTA Polish Revolution, which are ongoing, materials are distributed online via websites like Pastebin and communicated via the likes of the @YourAnonNews twitter account , while novices are directed to consult The Hacker Manifesto. Anonymous has been reporting successful attacks on-line as a #TangoDown.

Whilst the modus operandi may read like the plot of a graphic novel, the range and reach of engagement of Anonymous is still growing, in what direction and how far isn’t yet clear. Locally, Anonymous replaced the Fine Gael website, during the general election in 2011, with the words “Nothing is safe, you put your faith in this political party and they take no measures to protect you. They offer you free speech yet they censor your voice.”  Apparently, Labour TD Sean Sherlock intends to introduce SOPA-type legislation in the Republic, despite the stalling of SOPA and PIPA.

While major players like Google and Wikipedia joined the anti-SOPA battle, the more eclectic interests of Anonymous are worth monitoring as the depth of their political engagement grows. For that reason alone, it is worth having a good read of the Wired articles from last November.

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