International Lulz: Anonymous Aids Rebellions in Tunisia, Algeria and Libya

from the these-powers-can-also-be-used-for-good dept

Say what you will about Anonymous*, but they've managed (with a few outlying exceptions) to become one of the most unexpected forces of good in the world. Early indications of this revolutionary sense of purpose emerged during the collective's spirited defense of Wikileaks and Julian Assange, and any ideas one might have had that they could be taken lightly were completely shattered by their remorselessly thorough dismantling of HBGary's smack-talking CEO Aaron Barr, who was forced to eat his words nearly as fast as they could be downloaded.

But Anonymous hasn't stopped. An eye-opening Al Jazeera article runs down the latest activities of the headless collective, whose efforts have reached as far as Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. In a day and age when various talking heads decry internet anonymity as a cowardly safe haven for various levels of misanthropic behavior, it's always good to see the conventional "wisdom" undermined by the activities of a group -- who value anonymity and privacy (at least their own) -- using this same safe haven to wreak incredibly disruptive good.

Anonymous hit the ground running in Tunisia, performing DDOS attacks against government websites, providing "care packets" to help cyberdissidents to conceal their identity and developing a Greasemonkey script to block government phishing attacks.  After a false start in Algeria (mainly due to a lack of internet services), Anonymous' efforts moved on to Egypt, helping restore censored websites and operating mirrors, even going so far as to send old school faxes to places without internet service. When supporters of Iran's government began posting a "hitlist" comprising photos of protesters, the "legion" was there to take the websites down.

They (whoever "they" are) may be the newest threat to authoritarian regimes, but they haven't lost touch with their roots:

"In the operations for Egypt and Tunisia, some lulzy methods were used that harked back to Anonymous' past, including placing massive orders for pizza to be delivered to the countries’ embassies."


Now that Anonymous is a do-gooding multi-national, it's tempting to view them as a brutally efficient vigilante force. But as with any vigilante force, the odds of doing the wrong thing (or doing the right thing wrongly) increase greatly. And as with any other ad hoc group, the baser tendencies of the "hivemind" are often indulged.

These inherent dangers, along with the always present "Law of Unintended Consquences," should help keep things in perspective. After all, one day they could be handing out long distance tech support to rebel forces and the next day taking down and defacing a software company's website just because they can. The anonymity cuts both ways in these instances, linking the group with actions both righteous and indefensible.

There are also indications that some members have split off from the core and are now wreaking havoc as its own end, including the possibility that some of the "legion" may have hacked Sony despite official denials. (Well, as official as things get with Anonymous -- a posting with the now-familiar "Question Mark Head" logo.)

With Anonymous, you take the good with the bad. Both run to the extremes and the actions you were applauding one week can turn incredibly malevolent the next. After all, as they cheerfully point out, they are no one's personal army.

*No, go ahead. But make it perfectly clear those are your words and not mine, especially if you're going to start poking at the hornet's nest.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    xenomancer (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 5:26am

    the pizza orders were indeed lulzy

     

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  2.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 6:24am

    Good/Bad

    As with any group that is mildly organized at best, Anonymous tends to work through chaos. I see them doing more good than bad and have elected to, as you mentioned, take them as a positive force in total.

    Think of them like a bottle rocket. They don't always go exactly where you'd want them to, and there's a definite variance in the amount of "pop" that results, and sometimes because of a shift in the wind they can turn around and shoot back at you, but overall we're pleased that they're there.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2011 @ 6:46am

    One wonders if mass tampon deliveries work even better in the middle east...

     

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  4.  
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    Wabbit (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 6:53am

    Re: Good/Bad

    They don't always go exactly where you'd want them to, and there's a definite variance in the amount of "pop" that results, and sometimes because of a shift in the wind they can turn around and shoot back at you, but overall we're pleased that they're there.


    This same statement could also be used to describe numerous governments. Even here in the U.S.

     

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  5.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 7:28am

    Re:

    "One wonders if mass tampon deliveries work even better in the middle east..."

    For the middle east they should try delivering alcohol, condoms, viagra, and gay porn.

     

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  6.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 7:35am

    Re: Good/Bad

    "I see them doing more good than bad and have elected to, as you mentioned, take them as a positive force in total."

    For the most part, the impression I get from them is this whole Goku "light in the darkness" mentality.

    "I am the hope of the universe!
    I am the answer to all living things that cry out for peace!
    I am protecter of the innocent!
    I am the light in the darkness!
    Ally to good!
    Nightmare to you"

    All in all, on the side of good... well, mostly anyway.

    And Kudo's to them on aiding the rebels.

     

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  7.  
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    StrangerRick, May 27th, 2011 @ 7:53am

    I think in today's world, they are probably the only ones that can truly stand up to the Governments who are increasingly becoming *less* representative for the people. An election every 4 years doesn't change much, and the parties are more or less the same, so it doesn't really matter who wins. The Governments need "true competition". They need true check and balances, and Anonymous is one way to achieve that through their protests.

    I just hope they are as responsible as they can be with their protests, and don't hurt a lot of innocent people in the process. Like hacking Sony may be acceptable, even if it means the PSN service was down for a month for their users. I mean, I'm sure the Egypt revolution and the others were also not convenient for a lot of people that wanted to go to work and so on, but it was a small sacrifice to pay to change things for the better. On the other hand, using the credit card info of those PSN users, for example, would be totally unacceptable.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2011 @ 8:18am

    I find the whole Anonymous dynamic really fascinating...from a strictly on the sidelines and out of the line of fire perspective, heh.

    It reinforces the old (?) saying about the internet and those that work the pedals: control or censorship is seen as damage and someone will route around it.

    Also, it is a constant reminder that there's always someone more awesome than you at work, that there are all kinds of skillsets out there, used for good or evil intent...or just for lulz.

     

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  9.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 8:20am

    Re:

    I keep wondering who they are hurting with those pizzas. My guess would be that the targets simply say that they haven't ordered any pizza, meaning that the poor pizza-place end up to pay the bill. Doesn't seem all that nice.

     

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  10.  
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    That Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2011 @ 9:08am

    Re:

    I'm sorry you drank the koolaid Sony has been serving.

    There still is no actual evidence showing that Anonymous took the CC#s.

    Given the history of the collective, it would be tremendously out of character for those numbers to be taken and used/sold.

    I could see them taking the file just to prove it could be done as a service to the users at large, but not for their own gain as keeps being suggested.

    Keeping everyone focused on Anonymous has almost gotten everyone to look past the severe lapses in security that seem to be part of the Sony brand now.

    I am happy to see Anonymous doing good things, they are the proof that teh interwebs can make change in meatspace.

    Think of them as an online petition - one that if you ignore will get your information and embarrass you into doing the right thing.

    One wonders what they will do to Congress, who is working on trying to remove the freedom of the internet at the behest of their corporate sponsors.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2011 @ 9:20am

    Say what you will about Anonymous*, but they've managed (with a few outlying exceptions) to become one of the most unexpected forces of good in the world.

    I stopped reading at this point.

     

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  12.  
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    Freak, May 27th, 2011 @ 9:23am

    Re: Re:

    Back when I was on the BBS's, we^H^H . . . I mean they! would pre-pay the pizza place with a credit card. So they would get charged, likely turn down the pizza, and then not know they got charged for the pizza until too late. If they do at all; large companies, (or gov't offices), tend not to notice all the charges on their credit cards anyways. And they do, it might be more expensive to send hired work after the credit card company or pizza place to get the charge reversed . . .

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2011 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    You don't think it's unexpected that they are a force of good?

     

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  14.  
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    Jan Breens (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 9:26am

    Re:

    and that's all we need to know about you :).

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2011 @ 9:32am

    Re:

    You should keep reading, often the first sentence in a paragraph outlines the following content. The rest of the article justifies that statement nicely.

    Or you could bury your head back in the sand and live in ignorance. Your choice.

     

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  16.  
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    Steven (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 9:38am

    I have to take issue with these statements, at least in part.

    "But as with any vigilante force, the odds of doing the wrong thing (or doing the right thing wrongly) increase greatly."

    Increase greatly over what? Over a single person acting, sure I'll grant that, but I think the odds of such an outcome are significantly smaller than that of a large structured organization such as a government. We've seen over and over again the way large structured organization lose their 'humanity' and allow people to do very bad things, that they wouldn't otherwise do, because it's what they were told to do by their superiors. I'm not saying Anonymous is immune to this, but I believe they are much less prone to such things.

    "And as with any other ad hoc group, the baser tendencies of the "hivemind" are often indulged. "

    Once again I think the risk is much large in large structured organizations. Large organizations tend to develop a 'culture' and deviance from that culture is much harder than in a loosely associated group.

     

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  17.  
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    Fzzr (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re:

    Especially since embassies are immune to debt collection.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2011 @ 10:25am

    Re: Re:

    I don't think they are a force of good. I'm sure there are plenty people in Anonymous that have good intentions but there are just as many who are retarded little fucks that just want to wreak havoc.

     

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  19.  
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    Jake, May 27th, 2011 @ 10:34am

    I think Anonymous are aiming for Chaotic Neutral, actually.

     

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  20.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 11:20am

    Re:

    Call me Ishmael.

    I stopped reading at this point, because the hell I will!

     

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  21.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 11:33am

    Re:

    Excellent comment, Steven, and one that I pretty much agree with. Two things:

    1. I think the "vigilante" part is key. I'm in full agreement that just as many structured organizations are capable of evil. But vigilantism hasn't earned its lousy reputation for nothing. If the prime motivation is revenge (often mistaken for justice), then it tends to get out of hand if no one's willing to say "Enough." And a "no-one-knows-who-we-are" group would (generally) be less likely to pull back before it goes to far. (Again, not that structured organizations aren't prone to overreach, but at the very least, there's usually a name or a face to attribute the rogue behavior to, even if said organization is nigh untouchable.)

    2. This goes back to point 1, but purely hypothetical situation: fully justified hackathon (like HBGary) in progress. Someone comes across personal files or completely unrelated data. Is the tendency in this situation to pull back and leave it undisturbed? Or is it more of a "keep digging until you reach the bottom" thought process? Not everything needs to be unearthed and hung out to dry to make a point. It's impossible for me to say since I'm not privy to the inside. This is all based on 2nd hand accounts and observation.

    The risk is larger in large organizations, if the "culture" begins to slide in a negative direction. All of the CYA maneuvering only makes things worse. But once again, they usually lack the protection of anonymity.

     

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  22.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 11:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm sure there are plenty people in Anonymous that have good intentions but there are just as many who are retarded little fucks that just want to wreak havoc.

    Oddly enough, the same asshat who wrote the sentence that turned you off completely made pretty much that same point further down in the article.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2011 @ 11:41am

    Re:

    naw, this is chaotic neutral:

    A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it.


    They are more Chaotic Good:

    A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he's kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society.

    http://www.easydamus.com/chaoticgood.html

     

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  24.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), May 28th, 2011 @ 1:25am

    hack the planet!!! Nerd moment continues...

    Defiantly Chaotic Good Nature. Libertarian I think hits the Demeanor. Fits my personally as well.

    I daresay I maybe parroting myself on these stories and yet some more insight to share with the TD crew.

    I wonder if I will be charged with contribution of funds to terrorist organization if Anonymous ever got a kick-starter project for future ideas for action. I really think they may need to invest in information dissemination a bit though. Climate-Gate effects haven't really seen any policy change from status-quo. There are other examples but I may be here all night.

    I think we all still remember being fascinated by Hollywood depiction of the altruistic hacker in the movie so aptly named. Personally I still put my faith in the culture to remain Chaotic good. There are outliers in everything but like the game recently in newgrounds with the name even these can be dealt with in majority. Side note: Sony has been long overdue.

    Leave ya with some food for thought on Chaos.

    Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds. ~George Santayana

     

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  25.  
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    G Thompson (profile), May 28th, 2011 @ 3:44am

    Re:

    But you took the time to not only copy the sentence, but then to go into the comment section, past it, create italic tags (and close them) and then write a pithy sentence stating your dismissal of the whole article.

    Wow.. I mean WOW... It must take so much dedication to be as culturally inept and set in ones ways of thinking as you are.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2011 @ 8:42pm

    Re: Re:

    Hack the IRS

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2011 @ 8:43pm

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on May 27th, 2011 @ 8:18am

    Hack the irs

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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