All About Anonymous


Brendan Chase, Contributing Writer

What do the Westboro Baptist Church, Bank of America, and more recently, ISIS have in common?

All organizations have been targeted by the “hacktivist” group known as Anonymous. Created in 2003 through the website 4chan (an anonymous image-­based bulletin board), the group lacks any one leader, instead obeying the “global mind” composed of all of its members. The group bases its values in opposition to cyber surveillance and censorship.

Anonymous is known for its vigilante-­like attacks on what they deem wrong. A common form of attack for the group is hacking, more specifically, DDOS attacks. A DDOS attack is when a server is overwhelmed from internet traffic and usually crashes.

Since Anonymous lacks any official organization, anyone may become a member of the group. Tan image commonly associated with them is the Guy Fawkes mask. The mask resembles the face of Guy Fawkes, the best known member in the Gunpowder plot in 1605. Fawkes and his allies attempted to blow up the House of Lords in London in an attempt to remove James I from power. However, the plot failed and Fawkes was executed. Years later, the mask appeared on the anti­hero ”V” in  the movie V is for Vendetta. V used terror tactics to free the dystopian Britain from tyrannical rule. Growing from V’s ideas of anarchy, Anonymous idolizes the mask and uses it as their signature mark.

The group seems to have no limits to their targets. In 2010, Anonymous responded to an attempt to clamp down on WikiLeaks, known for publishing classified military documents. The group began “Operation Payback,” which targeted MasterCard, Visa and PayPal after they refused to serve WikiLeaks. Another famous attack launched by the group came after the Westboro Baptist Church openly taunted them. In response, they tapped into their site and wrote “Take this defacement as a simple warning: go away…The world (including Anonymous) disagrees with your hateful messages.”

In recent news, Anonymous has “declared war” on the Islamic State, or ISIS, and promises to expose and remove ISIS members across the globe. So far, the group claims to have exposed over 20,000 Twitter accounts associated with ISIS since the Paris attacks. While militaries across the globe can drop as many bombs as they want, ISIS members are spread out across the globe, hidden. Anonymous attempts to root out these members, and destroy them digitally.

However, due to the lack of central control, many journalists and innocent Muslims have been swept up in the massive assault on ISIS. In an attempt to prevent this, the Anonymous subgroup GhostSec encourages its members to remember “Just because a website or post is written in Arabic or is from a person of Muslim faith does not and should not make them a target.” Avoiding civilians in the cyber crossfire is critical if Anonymous wished to remain as highly regarded on the internet as it is currently.

The Hingham High student body seemed largely unaware of the whole group and their efforts to fight terrorism. When interviewing many students, they either had never heard of the group, or had no opinion on the subject. However, sophomore Wil Mullin believes that, “Anonymous is evolving into a fighting force capable of taking on ISIS’s major social media campaign. For the first time, someone is fighting back on the web.” Wil’s belief aligned with many other students around the school as well, once they found out about Anonymous and their actions. Despite some painful ignorance, about 75% of the students I talked to supported the new “Digital War.”

While the group is problematic in some aspects, I believe the potential for positive change in the world stemming from it is limitless. Unrestricted by bureaucratic regulation and politics in Washington D.C., Anonymous can force change on the internet. Unlike the gridlock in Congress, Anonymous actually inspires change for common American goals. Shrouded in mystery, but led by noble causes, the story of Anonymous reads just like any hero story. However, unlike a super­human hero, anyone can join the group, and feel like they are part of something larger. If the global population is willing to look past the cyber laws for just a moment and appreciate what Anonymous is trying to accomplish, then Anonymous will be the mystery hero that the world desperately needs.