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Should The Hackers Known As Anonymous Be Called Heroes?

Submitted by on August 22, 2011 – 11:27 amOne Comment

These guys have been busy.

Last week, they  joined in the protests against the San Francisco subway system over a transit police shooting. But inexplicably, they released the personal information of riders.

Anonymous also announced an upcoming attack against Facebook over privacy concerns. The video describing the plan states, “One day you will look back on this and realize what we have done here is right.”

So who are Anonymous? And will we really look back on what they’ve done as right?

Originally, Anonymous were just a bunch of hackers and posters on an imageboard (like a chat room) called 4chan.org.  According to Wikipedia, they are now “a group initiating active civil disobedience” that exist as an “anarchic, digitized global brain,” and often have the goal “of promoting Internet freedom and freedom of speech.”

Since 2009 (when the group supposedly shifted focus away from pranks and towards activism), they have targeted everything from the Iranian presidential elections to a California teen who made a “No Cursing” club. They were heavily involved in attacking dictatorships during the Arab Spring; they famously brought down Websites like PayPal in defense of Julian Assange, the creator of WikiLeaks who published confidential national security info.

Several Anonymous members have been tracked down and arrested for their actions. Accused hackers in England ranged from ages 15 to 26.

But have they been living up to their own ideals? While claiming to use “civil disobedience,” Anonymous methods are sometimes a far cry from normal nonviolent protest. While boycotts and demonstrations rely on convincing others to join, Anonymous forces their actions on people through the release of personal information and Denial Of Service attacks that bring down access to Web sites for everyone.

Even former members of the group are unhappy. The group was divided over the recent Facebook announcement. And now, an Ex-Anon with the username SparkyBlaze has identified himself as a Manchester, U.K. resident named Matthew, and accused Anonymous of betraying the freedom and anonymity it relies upon. “AntiSec [an Anonymous subgroup] Has Released Gig After Gig Of Innocent Peoples Information. For What? What Did They Do? Does Anon Have The Right To Remove The Anonymity Of Innocent People?”

What do you think? Are Anonymous a threat to Internet safety, or a force for it? Are they heroes, bullies, or a little bit of both?

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