(This was going to be part of the Linky, but I realised I wanted to say a bit more, so….)
Seems like Anonymous, the global hacker group that emerged from the wild free-for-all of the 4Chan websites and burst on the scene with global action against scientology, are doing some interesting stuff right now.
Operation Darknet was a sophisticated plan that, if I’m reading it right, broke through the anonymity of the “Darknet” (the most hidden parts of the internet) to grab identity details for a paedophile network; and it did this because paedophile users undermine and discredit the Darknet, on which Anonymous relies to function. That’s a bit of a hashed summary but the statement is well worth a look. Particularly interesting, they were supported by contacts in the group behind the Firefox web browser.
Operation Cartel on the other hand is yet to launch, and is even crazier. They’re taking direct action against a very dangerous & very resourceful Mexican drug cartel. I would not be surprised if some Anonymous members – or those believed by the cartel to be members – ended up dead because of this action.
Makes me reflect on Anonymous. Global worldchanging events are being enacted and affected by a bunch of 14-year-old tech geeks*. This isn’t a phase; this is structural, part of the incredible shift in power that new communication technologies have enacted. Global life has shifted (irretrievably) online, and power in the online world cannot be restricted by politics or class or any of the traditional control mechanisms. Online, power derives from knowledge and commitment, and only knowledge and commitment. And teenagers are famous for fiercely adopting causes, and for inhaling knowledge about subjects of interest. Oh – and for having time to fill. Anonymous and its successor networks will be making news for a long, long time to come.**
* Yes, that’s the stereotype and it is unclear how much it relates to the reality. But as stereotypes go – I mean, whoa. This has been the demographic with the least social power of all demographics. That was the entire rationale behind that great TV show “Freaks & Geeks”. Time was, 14yo tech geeks were the lowest of the lowest of the low on the totem pole of power. Well. That’s changed.
** And yes, sometimes Anonymous do crazy stuff that probably hurts more than it helps. Comes with the territory. I hope the ratio of help to hurt shifts positively as experiences accumulate through the network and are passed down to new generations of members. And it seems to me that the primary motivation of Anonymous is social justice, with lulz a close second; I suspect that these networks will always tend towards these motivations, partly because teens are fundamentally concerned with these things, and partly because more negatively oriented motives will not be able to sustain a large network. In other words, I think their hearts will always be in the right place when they break stuff they shouldn’t.