The Necessity of Anonymous in the Information Age

 

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Lack of transparency and advances in communications technology make the worldwide hacktivist network ‘Anonymous’ a necessary function of the twenty-first century. Society has entered the information age, where communication has become inherently associated with the economy and culture (McChesney 2015). New technologies allow for networked communication, providing a platform where the organisational aspects of protests, riots and social movements can occur (Fuchs 2014). Referring to forms of collective action motivated by political, economic or cultural objectives, social movements rely on the unification of individual members (Fuchs 2014). Organised online social actions, resistance movements and acts of hacktivism have gained popularity during the last few years (Dick 2012).
screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-3-23-31-pmDescribing itself as ‘the 21st century enlightenment’ (Fuchs 2014), Anonymous are an international collective of cyber activists (Hammer & Khalia 2013). Anonymous and similar initiatives have altered the landscape of the internet (Treadwell 2013). Providing anyone who agrees with the objectives the opportunity to become Anonymous, their actions demonstrate the power of a collective (Terzis 2011). Various Anonymous operations have advocated freedom of information (Treadwell 2013), counteracted abuses of power (Beyer 2014), and overcome ideological influences (Sorell 2015). Despite their ambiguity of purpose, their selective operations appear to be motivated by cases of social abuse (Klein 2015). Anonymous are commonly referred to as ‘hacktivists’ a term combining computer hacking and activism (Goode 2015). While many question whether hacktivism has a place in the information age and progressive digital politics (Goode 2015), it can be argued due to lack of transparency and advances in communications technology, Anonymous are a necessary function of the twenty-first century.

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 (Chrome.google.com 2016)

Since its arrival the internet has been adopted as a platform of political speech and social action (Dick 2012). Despite attempts of repression, censorship and surveillance (Dick 2012), new technologies are constantly increasing our ability to communicate, questioning the current freedom of communication protections (Duffy 2009). Many have expressed concerns regarding the political motivations of governments who pursue internet censorships (Duffy 2009). Dick (2012) argues implementing censorship compromises freedom of access to information and freedom of expression, leaving established democracies vulnerable and open to regression. The concept of freedom of information entails communications of all forms should not be supressed and that accurate public information is widely accessible, free from notions of censorship or punishment (Beyer 2014). This concept is aimed to increase government and corporate transparency, ultimately supporting democratic discourse (Beyer 2014).

Alongside other freedom of information advocates Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, Anonymous’ operations challenge powerful institutions and provoke reform through collective action (Klein 2015). An instance of this would be Operation Avenge Assange in 2010 (Mansfield-Devine 2011). Aiming to draw attention to the actions of WikiLeaks’ adversaries, who attempted censorship, Anonymous identified and attacked those responsible (Hampson 2012). Attacks were launched against organisations MasterCard, Visa and PayPal, who prevented payments to WikiLeaks, US senator Joe Lieberman and politician Sarah Palin (Mansfield-Devine 2011). Anonymous issued the following statement regarding the operation, “While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same: we want transparency and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we cannot say what we think and not express how we feel (Mansfield-Devine 2011).” Whenever Anonymous has appeared in the news or has trended online, individuals have inundated Anonymous community spaces (Beyer 2014), making their objective to raise awareness a success. Through actions and declarations, this operation proved Anonymous support freedom of information, freedom of expression and democratic discourse. Where governments and corporations were able to impose their will in the past (Bertola 2010), Operation Avenge Assange displays while institutions can abuse the power of the internet, online communities like Anonymous can counteract censure with collective action (Beyer 2014), making them a necessary function.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-3-27-05-pm

The internet has shifted power from governments and corporations to independent citizens (Bertola 2010). Historically powerful institutions were able to exert their will despite general opposition (Bertola 2010). However, globalisation of the internet has created a worldwide stakeholder group, giving power to individuals lacking it in the traditional sense (Bertola 2010). Using collaborative efforts, citizens of the world can provoke political action (Bertola 2010). And while individuals have strengthened from transitioning to networks, so too have authoritative powers (Krapp 2005). Krapp (2005) suggests ‘citizens of information society are governed less by concentrated coercion and more by ideological power.’ The internet’s networking and communication opportunities support democratic discourse and undermine any attempts of commercial or ideological influence (McChesney 2015). These platforms can leave governments and organisations vulnerable, rebalancing and shifting power (Sorell 2015).
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A direct example of Anonymous using the internet to enlighten individuals, rebalance power and counteract ideological influence was during Operation Tunisia in 2011. Anonymous learnt of a Tunisian marketplace vendor setting himself on fire after his goods were seized by the dictatorship (Kelly 2012). After investigating the dictatorship, Anonymous deemed the Tunisian government guilty of suppressing internet access to its citizens (Kelly 2012). Their response was to attack government websites as well as providing Tunisian citizens with software to counteract censor blocks (Kelly 2012). This operation demonstrated governments and organisations can become vulnerable to the actions of a small group (Sorell 2015). Anonymous exposed the vulnerabilities of a dictatorship, rebalancing power by providing Tunisian citizens with information free of censorship and regulation (Sorell 2015). The Tunisian government’s actions of restricting access to information and freedom of expression display how the internet can be used as a tool of control, conflicting with democratic discourse. The collective nature of Anonymous to confront issues such as this, make them a necessary function that counteracts abuses of power, balancing the ideological influences of governments and corporations (Krapp 2005). Operation Tunisia was a successful expression of hacktivism as well as political reform.

(YouTube 2016)

In today’s information age, hactivism has become a popular form of protest against perceived wrongdoings (Hampson 2012). Hactivism is when hacking becomes political, and rather than undertaking technical feats, objectives can be shifting public discourse, raising awareness or creating public pressure (Kelly 2012). Hacktivism can involve an individual person or many (Krapp 2005), and adequately resembles traditional forms of protest (Hampson 2012). Centuries old techniques including demonstrations, sit-ins, labour strikes and pamphlets have been refashioned into digital mediums (Krapp 2005). Tactics can include website defacement, exploiting security vulnerabilities, breaching networks and DDoS and botnet attacks (Goode 2015). The internet provides platforms where an audience’s attitude progresses from passive to active (Fuchs 2014). This system allows opportunities for minorities to take action, requiring no minimum approval from the collective to commence an operation (Kelly 2012). Hacktivists have committed themselves to protecting human rights and encouraging democratic discourse (Milone 2003). Their actions initiate reform, and without reform, the possibilities of an egalitarian, self-governing and humane society are unlikely (McChesney 2015). Given that anybody agreeing with the objectives can become a part of Anonymous (Terzis 2011), their movements have redefined the boundaries between collective and individual action (Fuchs 2014).

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(MintPress News 2012)

 

An example of Anonymous’ ability to initiate collective action and inspire an active public was during their 2008 conflict with the Church of Scientology. Operation Chanology begun when the Church attempted to supress digital publication of film star Tom Cruise frantically raving about the religion (Kelly 2012). More than six-thousand participants in ninety-nine cities over the world donned Guy Fawkes masks and protested in the streets (Kelly 2012). Scientology websites were raided and Anonymous succeeded in preventing the clip’s disappearance from the internet (Kelly 2012). This movement displays Anonymous’ ability to inspire others involvement and become a force of public action (Klein 2015). Anonymous have successfully taken hacking, an act of isolation and turned it into a political and moral statement (Kelly 2012). Their actions successfully provoked debates over control of digital information, counteracting another instance where an institution abused the power of the internet and attempted ideological influence (Goode 2015). Operation Chanology demonstrated Anonymous’ ability to channel the collective power of like-minded individuals (Beyer 2014) reaffirming Anonymous are a necessary function to counteract abuses of power.

(YouTube 2016)

In conclusion, this essay has outlined the importance of freedom of information, the internet empowering individuals and the purpose of hacktivists using and inspiring collaborative efforts. As evidenced, Anonymous both contribute and maintain these principles, making them a necessary function of the twenty-first century. Anonymous provide counterbalance to many social, political and economic issues. Operation Avenge Assange proved their determination to protect the concept of freedom of information, ultimately supporting democratic discourse by ensuring accessible public information and increasing government and corporate transparency (Beyer 2014). Additionally, this operation displayed that collective efforts can counteract censure (Beyer 2014). screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-3-15-02-pmIndividual citizens have strengthened from creating networks (Krapp 2005), rebalancing and counteracting ideological influence (Sorell 2015). Operation Tunisia exposed the vulnerabilities of a dictatorship and gave citizens information free of censure and regulation. Operation Chanology demonstrated Anonymous’ ability to inspire the active involvement of others and become a force of public action (Klein 2015). Successfully provoking debate over information control, Anonymous proved the collective power of like-minded individuals can counteract abuses of social power (Beyer 2014) and overcome ideological influences (Sorell 2015). These operations were acts of hactivism, which has gained traction during the information age, allowing minorities to take action (Kelly 2012) and initiate reform to promote an egalitarian society (McChesney 2015). Operations Avenge Assange, Tunisia and Chanology demonstrate in cases of social abuse individuals and groups of people can form a collective to respond, as anyone agreeing with their objectives can become Anonymous (Terzis 2011). As technology is now fundamental to society and continues to advance, Anonymous is a necessary function that balances lack of transparency, ideological influence and abuses of power by governments and corporations.

 

References:

Bertola, V 2010, “Power and the Internet”, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 323-337

Beyer, J.L 2014. “The Emergence of a Freedom of Information Movement: Anonymous, WikiLeaks, the Pirate Party, and Iceland”, The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 141-154

Dick, A.L 2012, “Established democracies, Internet censorship and the social media test”, Information Developments, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 259-260

Duffy, J 2009, “Toothless tiger, sleeping dragon: implied freedoms, internet filters and the growing culture of internet censorship in Australia”, Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 91-105

Fuchs, C 2014, Social Media, politics and the state: protests, revolutions, riots, crime and policing in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Routledge, New York

Goode, L 2015, “Anonymous and the Political Ethos of Hacktivism”, Popular Communication, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 74

Hammer, D & Khalia, F 2013, “Map Room: Anonymous Hacktivism”, World Policy Journal, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 20-21

Hampson, N.C.N 2012, “Hacktivism: a new breed of protest in a networked world”, Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 511

Kelly, B. B 2012, “Investing in a centralized cybersecurity infrastructure: why “hacktivism” can and should influence cybersecurity reform”, Boston University Law Review, vol. 92, no. 5, pp. 1663

Klein, A.G 2015, “Vigilante Media: Unveiling Anonymous and the Hacktivist Persona in the Global Press”, Communication Monographs, vol. 82, no. 3, pp. 379-23

Krapp, P 2005, “Terror and Play, or What Was Hacktivism?”, Grey Room, vol. 21, no. 21, pp. 70-93

Mansfield-Devine, S 2011, “Anonymous: serious threat of mere annoyance?”, Network Security, vol. 2011, no. 1, pp. 4-10

McChesney, R.W 2015, Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times, The New Press, New York

Milone, M.G 2003, “Hacktivism: Securing the national infrastructure”, Computer and Internet Lawyer, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 1

Sorell, T 2015, “Human Rights and Hacktivism: The Cases of WikiLeaks and Anonymous”, Journal of Human Rights Practice, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 391-410

Terzis, G 2011, “For everything else there’s MasterCard: Anonymous and 21st-century hacktivism”, Kill You Darlings, no. 6, pp. 21-31

Treadwell, L 2013, “This machine kills secrets: How WikiLeaks, cypherpunks, and hacktivists aim to free the world’s information”, Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 121

References for images, videos and links:

Anonofficial.com. (2016). Anonymous Official Website – Anonymous News, Videos, Operations, and more | AnonOfficial.com. [online] Available at: http://anonofficial.com [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]

Chrome.google.com. (2016). Anonymous. [online] Available at: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/anonymous/iceilgfippckmaabaghcnfmieeccoipf [Accessed 20 Sep. 2016]

MintPress News. (2012). Anonymous: a new civil disobedience movement for the twenty-first century. [online] Available at: http://www.mintpressnews.com/anonymous-a-new-civil-disobedience-movement-for-the-twenty-first-century/20692/ [Accessed 20 Sep. 2016

Whitaker, B. (2010). How a man setting fire to himself sparked an uprising in Tunisia | Brian Whitaker. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/dec/28/tunisia-ben-ali [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]

Wikileaks.org. (2016). WikiLeaks. [online] Available at: https://wikileaks.org [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]

YouTube. (2016). Tom Cruise – Scientology Rant (FULL). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4O2_rZIgrQI [Accessed 20 Sep. 2016

YouTube. (2016). ANONYMOUS – OPERATION TUNISIA – A Press Release. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFLaBRk9wY0 [Accessed 20 Sep. 2016

 

Essay research

I used ‘Bubbl’ to create the following mind map and get a bit of direction with my essay. Mapping it out like this helped figure out what each paragraph would focus on, and what points that I wanted to make. Having a visual of my research also made me aware that due to the broadness of the topic, I would need to ensure relevant and focussed points.

My argument will support the following: Lack of transparency and advances in communications technology make the worldwide hacktivist network ‘Anonymous’ a necessary function of the twenty-first century.

My essay will be structured in three main paragraphs that will outline the importance of a free internet (free from filters), the purpose of hacktivism and how the internet has shifted power by allowing collective actions. At the end of each paragraph I will provide a direct example of how Anonymous has achieved a purpose and contributed in each area. This method will both link and support my argument that Anonymous are a necessary function of the 21st century. I also believe that weaving examples throughout the essay will maintain relevancy, constantly reinforce my argument and make sure I don’t stray off topic.

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The following five references have been essential to my research and have given me direction as well as supporting my argument:

1: Fuchs, C 2014, Social Media, politics and the state: protests, revolutions, riots, crime and policing in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Routledge, New York

2: Kelly, B. B 2012, “Investing in a centralized cybersecurity infrastructure: why “hacktivism” can and should influence cybersecurity reform”, Boston University Law Review, vol. 92, no. 5, pp. 1663

3: Bertola, V 2010, “Power and the Internet”, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 323-337

4: McChesney, R.W 2015, Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times, The New Press, New York

5: Krapp, P 2005, “Terror and Play, or What Was Hacktivism?”, Grey Room, vol. 21, no. 21, pp. 70-93

Internet Political Opportunities

As you know from my first post this blog was created for assessment purposes. This week I was tasked with completing a list while seeing if I can stick to my political beliefs. Since I found this interesting I thought I would invite you to do the same. I’ve provided the links below each task so you can follow, but depending on your whereabouts you may need to change a few things.

Task 1: Sign an e-petition

There are many e-petitions available online however, you can find all the current ones for Queensland Parliament here. Below is a snapshot of just some of the ones you can sign, I ended up signing a few.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 6.02.47 PM(Parliament.qld.gov.au, 2016)

 

Task 2: Respond to a professional blogger at a major news site

I like reading the conversation, so I commented on a few articles. Its really easy, the sign in options are pictured below.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 8.10.43 AM(The Conversation, 2016)

 

Task 3: What is Barak Obama up to today? Can you send him a message about the importance of freedom on the internet?

Surprisingly you can view the President of the United States daily schedule! To see what the President is up to today click here.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 1.48.39 PM(whitehouse.gov, 2015)

If you would like to send the President a message about the importance of freedom you can. The image below displays the different options, click here to go directly to the Whitehouse contact page.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 1.52.51 PM(whitehouse.gov, 2015)

 

Task 4: What are/were the Australian Government’s plans to censor the internet (the so called ‘clean feed’)?

On the 31st of December 2007, the Australian Minister for Communications announced that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would be required to provide a ‘clean feed’ of Internet content to users (Simpson 2007, p. 167). A ‘clean feed’ means online material is filtered and then deemed appropriate or inappropriate, with inappropriate content then blocked at the ISP (Simpson 2007, p. 167).

After a lot of public disapproval, the Australian Federal Government announced it would no longer pursue the clean feed in 2012 (Falconer 2012). However, under the Telecommunications Act 1997, ISPs are still required to censor child abuse sites that appear on INTERPOL’s block list (Falconer 2012).

Task 5: What place does censorship have in democracy?

Ahhh, none if you ask me. Since almost its advent the internet has been a platform for political speech, activism and social networking (Dick 2012, p. 259), the Arab Spring is a perfect example. Digital communications have become an essential tool to social resistance and actions in the last few years (Dick 2012, p. 259). But recently the internet has been threatened with repression, censorship and surveillance (Dick 2012, p. 259).

And while the government has been upfront with its plan to filter, its less transparent about what content will be blocked (Bambauer 2009). This process is concerning because by accepting that material is blocked under the surmise its potentially illegal, ISPs and users may be accepting values without even knowing the possible harms (Simpson 2007, p. 180).

While aimed to protect, censorship will expose the entire community to a form of control without even knowing the exact extent (Simpson 2007, p. 181). Dick (2012, p. 269) argues that established democracies make themselves vulnerable by restricting access to information and freedom of expression. Having material censored and filtered may impact on the fullness of Australia’s democracy, as a mandatory filtering impinges on the implied constitutional freedom of political communication (Duffy 2009, p. 103).

Task 6: What are the benefits of the NBN? What potential form(s) will the NBN take when it is finally rolled out?

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(Optus, 2016)

The NBN is the National Broadband Network designed to connect ninety per cent of Australian homes, schools and workplaces with speeds of 100 Mbps (Cunningham 2011). Its most easily understood as an upgrade on Australia’s telecommunications that will revolutionise the way we connect (Godfrey 2012).

The NBN’s benefits will include:

  • Future proofing Australian homes and businesses (Hanlon 2016)
  • Faster internet speeds (Hanlon 2016)
  • More connections, even in rural areas (Hanlon 2016)
  • Reliable internet service (Optus 2016)
  • Supports multiple devices (Optus 2016)

The NBN will see the existing copper wire and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) replaced with fibre optic cables (Optus, 2016), meaning that information data will travel at much faster speeds (Hanlon 2016). There are currently teams of installers connecting homes to the network, this generally means laying fibre optic cables under the street (Hanlon 2016). You’ll be notified when the NBNs coming to your area and then a NBN Utility Box will be installed on the outside of your house (Hanlon 2016). However if your a planner or just curious you can find out when the NBN are visiting your neighbourhood here.

 

Task 7: Find out who your local, state and federal representatives are. Send one a message.

My local member is Peter Young from division 5

My State Representative is Mr Sidney (Sid) Cramp

My Federal Representative is Hon Stuart Robert MP

I sent my Local Representative, Mr Peter Young an email, I used the AEC to find my electorate and members of parliament.

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Task 8: Look up the Queensland or Australian Hansard to find the last time your local member spoke in parliament.

The Hansard was easy to use, just search your Member of Parliament and away you go.Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 8.40.20 PM

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 9.07.55 PM(Aph.gov.au, 2016)

 

Task 9: Let your local member know what you think about their last speech

The email below is addressed to Mr Stuart Robert, the Federal Representative of Fadden.

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Overall I thought these tasks were interesting, but I don’t think I ever veered from my political beliefs. If you would like to comment whether or not you found the same please do so.

References:

Aph.gov.au. (2016). Search Hansard – Parliament of Australia. [online] Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/Search?main_0%24right_2%24btnSubmit=Go&ind=0&st=1&sr=0&q=stuart+robert&expand=True&drvH=0&drt=2&pnu=43&pnuH=43&f=28%2F09%2F2010&to=11%2F11%2F2013&pi=0&pv=&chi=2&coi=0&ps=10 [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Bambauer, D.E 2009, “Filtering in oz: Australia’s foray into Internet censorship”, University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 493

Cunningham, S. 2011, “Broadband, the NBN and Screen Futures”, Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, no. 140, pp. 16-21

Dick, A.L 2012, “Established democracies, Internet censorship and the social media test”, Information Development, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 259-260

Duffy, J 2009, “Toothless tiger, sleeping dragon: implied freedom, internet filters and the growing culture of internet censorship in Australia”, Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 91-105

Falconer, J. (2012). Australia’s Mandatory Internet Filter Has Finally Been Killed. [online] The Next Web. Available at: http://thenextweb.com/au/2012/11/09/finally-australias-controversial-mandatory-isp-filtering-is-off-the-table/#gref [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Godfrey, D. 2012, NBN to Crunch SKA, Control Publications Pty Ltd, Hawksburn

Hanlon, J. (2016). NBN Guide: What You Need to Know. [online] Whistleout.com.au. Available at: https://www.whistleout.com.au/Broadband/Guides/NBN-Guide-What-You-Need-to-Know [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Optus, S. (2016). NBN – Get on the national broadband network with Optus. [online] Optus.com.au. Available at: http://www.optus.com.au/shop/broadband/nbn [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Parliament.qld.gov.au. (2016). Current e-petitions – Queensland Parliament. [online] Available at: https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/petitions/e-petitions [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Simpson, B 2008, “New Labor, new censorship? Politics, religion and internet filtering in Australia”, Information & Communications Technology Law, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 167-183

The Conversation. (2016). The Conversation: In-depth analysis, research, news and ideas from leading academics and researchers.. [online] Available at: https://theconversation.com/au [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

whitehouse.gov. (2015). The White House Blog. [online] Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog#today [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016] 

whitehouse.gov. (2015). Submit Your Comments and Questions Online. [online] Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]