A representative from hacktivism's untiring army reflects on a turbulent year for online protest
From breaking the Syrian media blackout, hacking the EDL and patrolling hundreds of cities on the Million Mask March, 2013 was the year that Anonymous got bigger, better and meaner than before – even playing crusading for justice for rape victims with #OccupyStuebenville and #OpJustice4Rehtaeh. In July, they even found time to hack FEMA, a US federal agency that dared to create a training simulation around Anon-like hackers called The Void. These days, the stakes are even higher: as Chelsea Manning's conviction proves, governments don't look too kindly on internet crusaders. But as one representative tells us, Anonymous is far from cowed.
"The Anonymous of 2013 has definitely changed from an online collection of social misfits to an online and offline collection of social misfits. There has been a lot more ground ops than before, people flocked to the Anonymous banner for the protection and anonymity that it offers – one thing Anonymous does well is look after its own. Take Wikileaks and the Pirate Bay: we didn’t stop the methods the governments were using but we made them fight for every inch and we did more damage to servers, systems and company and peoples reputation as a direct result of these actions than they ever did to us and our causes.
Ops like #OpJustice4Rehtaeh and Steubenville essentially don’t fit into the larger Anonymous cause. While some may disagree with me, I feel confident that the 4Chan boards would agree with me – Anonymous was never supposed to “be” anything. The [attacking] wrongdoing became part of Anonymous during the integration of the Occupy movement – Anonymous has become a platform to air your views within a subgroup of people who have strong feelings towards social and intellectual oppression, in the hope of galvanizing followers to a specific cause using the Anonymous name.
It acts as a banner to protect your personal security, and allows a greater freedom to express yourself without social pressures interfering. It also acts as a support network. If a specific Anonymous “sub-group” was targeted, other people who refer to themselves using the Anonymous banner would galvanise to protect that group.
“America, and other countries like England, are permanent targets not because of the country or the people, but because we don’t like to see someone preach about peace and freedom"
[Even] with FEMA eggging on Anons with the whole "The Void" scenarios, there was no direct attack against FEMA planned out within the "collective". But no one really requires permission to do anything, so it’s hard to tell the thought process that went on behind it as collective agreement for targets only usually happens when the people behind it need assistance either to distract or attack a target – if you’re good enough to just get the job done, then you just do it.
Essentially, the American government is always a target of Anonymous. Being one of the forerunners of global censorship, and due to their pandering to whoever pays for them to run for election, [this] will probably continue. The main things Anonymous don’t like are bullying and censorship. America, and other countries like England, are permanent targets not because of the country or the people, but because we don’t like to see someone preach about peace and freedom. If you’re free you don’t need an M16 pointed at you to understand it.
The biggest triumph for Anonymous in 2013, I think, is really just to see it taking off as it has. While it may morph and alter as more people enter with their ideas, it doesn’t mean that it is better or worse – everything changes. I’m just glad it went the way it did, trying to be a force for good. I enjoyed the pranking and the messing about of the original Anons, but for something to develop it has to grow. So while some might say it’s the FEMA hacks, Syria, or any of the other numbers of operations we have undertaken, I feel the biggest triumph is that we held strong to our wish to keep Anonymous leaderless – with the power in the hands of the people who represent it."