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Anonymous is a loosely connected collective of individuals, many of whom identify as internet activists. From its beginnings in 2008, Anonymous has targeted individuals and organizations including the Church of Scientology, the Westboro Baptist Church, and corporations like Sony. The group's tactics have ranged from bombarding the Church of Scientology with black faxes to "distributed denial of services" (DDOS) attacks.
Most recently, Anonymous has taken on the Ku Klux Klan in what's being called Operation KKK. Leaders of the movement want to publicly harass and shame the racist group and are threatening to release lists of KKK members, embarrassing any politicians and other public figures who may allegedly be members. There have been two "leaks" with purported KKK members, but reports indicate those are flimsy, at best. On Twitter, Operation KKK has said an official list of names will be posted later this week.
Anonymous tends to be active this time of year as November 5 holds particular significance for the group. The date commemorates the day a Catholic terrorist named Guy Fawkes attempted (but was thwarted) to firebomb British Parliament, back in 1605. Fawkes was part of a movement that wanted to restore England to Catholicism and assassinate King James I. Anonymous members are often seen wearing masks reminiscent of Fawkes, as featured in the film V for Vendetta. This year, Anonymous has planned a "Million Mask March," with anti-racism rallies across the U.S.
As Jules states here, it's difficult to measure exactly how "powerful" Anonymous is. After all, it's a group that is founded on secrecy. Still, Anonymous embodies something broader-a group that embodies one type of internet activism that has shaped recent history. Just think of the Arab Spring protests-anonymous organizing and messaging was vital for people living under oppressive regimes.
The Masked Avengers (newyorker.com)
"Anonymous might be the most powerful nongovernmental hacking collective in the world. Even so, it has never demonstrated an ability or desire to damage any key elements of public infrastructure."
How Anonymous's big KKK dump got muddled before it even began (washingtonpost.com)
"The Anonymous news account that initially broadcast the Pastebin files then said that the file listing government officials came from Amped Attacks, a hacker who is known for using DDoS attacks against the web presence of hate groups."
Anonymous hackers take on the Church of Scientology (cnet.com)
"A copyright violation claim by the Church of Scientology against the posting of one of its videos to YouTube has prompted a full-on assault by a group calling itself Anonymous."
Guy Fawkes Day: A Brief History (history.com)
"Catholic dissident Guy Fawkes and 12 co-conspirators spent months planning to blow up King James I of England during the opening of Parliament on November 5, 1605."