Anonymous is the name given to a online group (described by supporters as "hacktivists", opponents as terrorists) who carry out attacks on various websites, usually employing various forms of network abuse, amongst other general Internet activities.
The group gained notoriety in recent years with its participation in Operation Payback, which included a series of actions in defence of whistle-blowing organization Wikileaks and its figurehead Julian Assange, Operation Sony and from Westboro Baptist Church's declaration of war on Anonymous, which they mostly ignored.
The use of the "Anonymous" collective name to describe the source of activities dates to 2003, on various image boards on the Internet, the most famously attributed of which is 4chan.
In 2008, in response to a Tom Cruise video , Anonymous became more homogeneous in its opposition to the Church of Scientology . Known as Operation Chanology, it included Denial-of-Service attacks, real life protests and mass publication and spread of information usually withheld by members of the church.
In 2010, it rose to notoriety due to Anonymous' actions against those who opposed copyright violation. Operation Payback was initially about using network abuse in a vain attempt to intimidate large corporations, and later became involved with the support of Wikileaks and Julian Assange.
As Anonymous is a collective, rather than a group, it has no official beliefs and ideals. This has begun to change in last year due to a cell within Anonymous, called AnonOps, carrying out a lot of the operations, but as a collective they are still loosely defined. Many members of Anonymous will reject any such group attempting to be more identifiable in the general body.
However, Anonymous, at least certain segments, is known for its support of freedom of information, freedom of speech, personal freedom, transparency within the government and universal access to human rights.
In 2008, after a video of Tom Cruise talking about Scientology was leaked onto YouTube, Anonymous declared Project Chanology (also known as Operation: Chanology), a crusade by Anonymous to "destroy" the Church of Scientology (CoS) as it exists today. This prolonged campaign was initiated due to the CoS's belief in suppressing information, suppressing it's members, spreading misinformation and abusing taxation laws to remain tax free.
There was also considerable opposition to the core practice in Scientology of having to hand over a significant fortune to be shown what the Scientology believes, which is strongly opposed by the ideal that "Knowledge is Free".
It should be noted that, while Project Chanology/Operation: Chanology has been a more organized form of protest than most Anonymous attacks, and physical protests against Scientology have been organized, there are still Anonymous who believe that spreading generally inappropriate havoc "for the lulz" is still the best way to carry out Operation: Chanology. At least one Anonymous has covered himself in vaseline and toenail clippings and walked out in public with this mixture coating his skin as a form of Operation: Chanology-linked protest.
Operation Payback began in 2010 as a counter to those who opposed Internet Piracy. It began in response to Distributed Denial of Service attacks against Torrent websites, with return DDoS attacks against pro-copyright and anti-piracy companies.
After Wikileaks released the secret cables many of those who opposed Wikileaks, or retracted their affiliation due to government pressure, became the next targets. The concept of Freedom of Information was supported by Wikileaks so those who opposed the group became targets, but also those who were pressured into retracting by government forces (the US government was blamed significantly for this) opened up a knowledge of a corruption within these governments, due to their intervention in private business.
These Operation also spun Operation Avenge Assange, an operation against those who targeted and victimised Julian Assange after the cable leaks.
Westboro Baptist Church
On February 16, 2011, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) issued a declaration of war against the group Anonymous. WBC claimed that Anonymous had threatened to start a war with their website and church. This caused much disquiet by antagonizing the trolls, and the violation of the idea of Freedom of Speech, a member of Anonymous called Topiary agreed to speak on the David Pakman Show on February 24.
On the show Anonymous explained that it initially had no interest in WBC because it considered them unimportant trolls, but after being harassed on the show, the group replaced their WBC's websites with a message explaining their lack of interest.
Anonymous and the Arab Spring
Because of their belief in values as freedom and democracy, Anonymous members are generally on the side of the people opposing dictators. During the Arab Spring, they initiated 2 operations: Operation Egypt and Operation Tunisia which consisted in series of attacks on governmental websites. They also lead some actions against Libya and recently against the Syrian Defense Ministry.
In 2009, Anonymous adopted the motto "We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us". Contrary to what the Bible teaches, Anonymous rejects the concept of forgiveness.
- Estes, Adam Clark. "Anonymous shuts down Westboro Baptist Church site — during a live interview", Salon, February 25, 2011. Retrieved on October 19, 2012.