Will Arresting 'Anonymous' Members Help Or Hurt Anonymous?
from the just-wondering dept
I’m on record as saying that I think the activist hacking by groups like Anonymous, designed to take down websites in protest, are not particularly smart or useful. I will admit, however, that I’m surprised at how effective they’ve been in drawing additional media attention to certain stories, and how they really have helped drive two particular stories forward (the ACS:Law situation in the UK, and the HBGary Federal story in the US). And while I still don’t think it’s a particularly effective overall strategy, I must say that I find the whole effort (and similar efforts from “groups” like Lulz Security) fascinating. I’ve also pointed out that what may be even more interesting is how traditional law enforcement and governments can’t really grasp what they’re dealing with.
I think that point may be driven home with two separate governments claiming success in “arresting” Anonymous members. Spain got some attention for supposedly arresting three “Anonymous” members late last week, and then Turkey also got some attention for arresting “32 members.”
If these individuals were involved in actual criminal activities, then the arrests are perfectly reasonable. But if these governments actually understood what was going on, and actually understood what they were dealing with, they wouldn’t have said they were arresting members of “Anonymous,” which is hardly a group anyway, and the word “member” is misleading. Taking a traditional top down approach, these governments think that by announcing that they’ve “arrested Anonymous members,” they’re likely to scare people off from being a part of Anonymous. It’s very much speculation on my part, but knowing the sort of people involved, my guess is that it’s having exactly the opposite response. By presenting the people arrested as being a part of Anonymous, these governments are glorifying Anonymous, and adding to the allure. And the arrests are unlikely to scare off too many actual participants, since they quite likely think that they are better at covering their tracks… and as things move along, that will likely be true.
These governments could have easily arrested people and charged them with hacking without making the connection back to Anonymous. Making such statements is like responding to trolls on internet forums. It’s tough to resist sometimes, but it only encourages more such activity. And, of course, just as with trolls, this sort of thing really only plays into exactly what Anonymous wants. It builds up the group’s own profile, increases the very necessary mythology, and likely improves the efforts to do more such activities (while protecting participants even more).
In a world with increasingly distributed power, Anonymous and others are really a precursor to what’s coming down the road, demonstrating how certain forms of activism really don’t work the way people in power expect them to. I don’t agree with their specific tactics, but I’m fascinated by their ability (intended or not) to get companies and governments to play right into their strategy.