It’s not always nyan acts and butterflies for Anonymous hacktivists. Even though most of their intentions are pure, they still face some serious consequences for what they do for society. Many of them have been investigated by the FBI and have done jail time due to the criminal nature of their work, which raises the question: is all of this really worth it?
Former Anon Brian Thomas Metterbrink shared his story. Just six months after Anonymous’s huge protest against the Church of Scientology, the FBI came knocking at Metterbrink’s door, armed with weapons. After investigation, he was sentenced the maximum punishment for his actions: one year in prison and one year’s supervised release where he could not even lay a finger on a computer. The former hacker felt the punishment was overkill compared to what he had done, but he cooperated and stood by his actions. His mom stood by him as well, as she was proud of her son for standing up for what he believed in.
“I had a belief that what I did was the right thing, and hopefully someone got some good out of it. I don’t think I would have changed a single thing”, Metterbrink says.
A select few of Anonymous’s most famous hacks
Project Chanology/Church of Scientology:
In response to the cease and desist the church issued against Tom Cruise for praising the religion, Anonymous retaliated with:
- 8,139 harassing/threatening phone calls
- 3.6 million malicious emails
- 141 million hits against church websites
- 10 acts of vandalism
- 22 bomb threats
- 8 death threats against members and officials of Church of Scientology
source: How Anonymous Hackers Changed the World
Operation Ice ISIS (#OpIceISIS):
In November 2015, Anonymous declared cyber warfare on the Islamic State following the terrorist attacks in Paris. Since the declaration, Anonymous has carried out
- 149 Islamic State-linked websites removed
- Over 100,000 Twitter accounts taken down
- 5,900 propaganda videos flagged
Operation NASA Drones(#OpNASADrones)
- gathered 276GB of data from NASA servers
- released 631 videos from planes and weather radars
- released 2,143 flight logs
- released personal information of 2,414 NASA members
source: AnonNews, Medium
Westboro Baptist Church (#OpWestBoro)
After the WBC protested the funerals of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, Anonymous
- hacked and gathered personal information of church members
- released personal information on Pastebin (email addresses, street addresses, phone numbers, etc.)
Anonymous protested against PayPal after they stopped supporting WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy organization, but continued to allow its users to fund anti-religious organizations
- issued series of DDoS attacks on website by flooding their servers with traffic
- cost company $5.5 million in damages
While Anonymous has gained significant influence over the past couple of years, there are still many who doubt their message. Some individuals still won’t take the group seriously, even though they have done significant damage to corrupted individuals and organizations throughout the world. These people feel that the group is comprised of dumb teenagers who have no lives outside of their bedrooms. While this argument may be valid for a select few of the more immature Anons, the majority of the group wants the world to know that they are serious.
Other individuals have shown major skepticism towards Anonymous, giving some very serious allegations. Some feel they are a terrorist organization, while others think they are “terrorist sympathizers”. Others feel that the group is a conspiracy created to overthrow the government.
Despite the negative feelings toward Anonymous, the public tends to have a general trust in hacktivists’ intentions.
Standing behind a Guy Fawkes mask, Anonymous is an ever-growing global network of individuals who use the internet to spread their ideas and take due action. In short, members of this group, commonly called Anons, “stand against censorship and oppressive governments” (Anonymous). Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy McGill University, refers to Anonymous as “the rude boys of activism” who “represent a certain sort of chaotic freedom”. On the surface, it seems that all Anons have the same goal, but these hacktivists are passionate about different issues that fall under the anti-censorship and anti-government umbrella. As such, instead of having a centralized leadership, the group exhibits a de facto leadership that is dependent on their operations. Anonymous’s unity and lack of central leadership suggests that they are the voice of the masses–they are speaking for us, for the greater good of society and the world, and not for individual power.