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.