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A positive article about anonymous in Pakistan Times


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VIEW: Anonymous —Syed Kamran Hashmi

Anonymous assisted the Libyan rebels; it worked with al-Tahrir square protestors in Egypt, hacked the Syrian Defence Ministry website and took down the Official Vatican web page, all in less than two years

“We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”

This is an excerpt of a synthesised voice message from ‘Anonymous’ to the Church of Scientology that appeared on the internet four years ago. At that time, Anonymous was largely unknown to the world and even today, when its infamy has gone viral, the true identity of its members lurks in the shadows.

Broadly, Anonymous can be categorised as a loose group of internet hackers that believes in the freedom of information. It promotes human rights and is also involved in assisting the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutionists of the turmoil-engulfed Middle Eastern region. For that reason, many official agencies refer them to as ‘hactivists’. They despise the group, disapprove of its strategy and consider its actions dubious, if not completely illegal in nature. As an activist, the group is fearless. It takes on large financial institutions and grapples with nation states across the globe. It penetrates their official websites and makes them inaccessible to the user. In their most recent attack last month, Anonymous infiltrated multiple Chinese government websites, defaced them and posted their own messages on them — warning the Chinese government of future assaults. It tweeted, “First we want to alert the Chinese government that we aren’t afraid, and we are going to show the truth and fight for justice.” It is important to note that the Chinese government is well protected; it is armed with its own unit of patriotic hackers and is not an easy target. It strictly monitors internet activities locally and does not allow social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the country to maintain social stability and political order.

In 2008, the message from Anonymous on YouTube was actually a backlash against the reaction of the Church on a controversial interview of Tom Cruise that was leaked on the internet. During the conversation in the leaked video, the Hollywood star had claimed that the Church of Scientology was the only religion that could heal drug addictions and successfully rehabilitate criminals. Once the interview had emerged on the web, the Church issued a legal claim of copyright violation and advised YouTube to remove Cruise’s video immediately.

The Church did not realise that their legal dispute would be considered as internet censorship and provoke a momentous response from an unknown group of internet activists — the Anonymous, who would declare a war against the Church of Scientology and its secretive policies. Anonymous formulated a combat operation — Project Chanology — to protect internet freedom and expose the truth about the activities of the church. It attacked the church’s website, Scientology.org and took it down for at least one week in January 2008. Their principle tool for web interference was the denial of service (DDoS) attacks that make the internet site essentially inaccessible. It also utilised other methods to further annoy the church, including prank calls and black fax messages. In two weeks, it arranged a series of protests in front of the buildings of the Church of Scientology all over the world. Small groups of people in different time zones gathered at different locations and different cities on that day; all of them wore Guy Fawkes masks — the political conspirator who planned to burn the British Parliament in November 1605 — to conceal their identities and symbolise Anonymous.

The origin of Anonymous can be traced back to 2003 in the image board chat rooms like 4chan.org. These chat rooms provided a platform where people from all over the world express themselves under the collective name ‘Anonymous’ without revealing their identities. On the day that the church issued a legal notice to YouTube, there was a lot of heated discussion on the image board and Anonymous was probably born during that time.

Since January 2008, the political role of Anonymous has only grown in both size and nature. It has never looked back. They have helped protestors in Iran after its presidential elections in 2009, and launched the website — Anonymous Iran — to support the Iranian Green Movement.

Operation Tunisia was instituted to help the people of Tunisia to obtain their freedom from the tyranny of Zain ul Abidin Bin Ali. Operation Avenge Assange was launched to aid Wikileaks chief editor Julian Assange when he released the classified US State Department documents. During the operation, the websites of Visa, Master Card, Amazon and Paypal were attacked because they refused to allow transactions for Wikileaks under the pressure of the US government.

Anonymous assisted the Libyan rebels; it worked with al-Tahrir square protestors in Egypt, hacked the Syrian Defence Ministry website and took down the Official Vatican web page, all in less than two years. They are everywhere but nowhere. They are everybody but nobody. They are ubiquitous but still anonymous.

Recently, when Interpol announced the arrest of 25 internet activists in various South American and European countries for planning attacks on the Colombian defence ministry website, this is what they had to say in response, “Interpol, you can’t take Anonymous; it’s an idea.”