Can’t the Hacktivists Just Get Along?

Hacktivist groups like Anonymous fray over squabbles about philosophy.

Hacktivist groups like Anonymous fray over squabbles about philosophy.

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 26 2011 5:14 PM

Can’t the Hacktivists Just Get Along?

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Photo by Michael Gottschalk/AFP/Getty Images.

Activists of the organization Anonymous hold masks in front of their faces on August 14, 2008, during a demonstration in Berlin.

In a meaty piece, the Financial Times’ Joseph Menn paints a revealing portrait of Anonymous, LulzSec, and the hacktivist culture. Though the subheading promises to demonstrate “Why the world is scared of hacktivists,” the most interesting part of the piece might be the discussion of internecine battles and diverging philosophical approaches to hacktivism. For instance, some who were onboard with denial-of-service attacks aimed at supporting WikiLeaks were discomfited by subsequent missions that they saw as self-serving. Others scoffed at Anonymous’ insistence that its group had no leaders. Menn writes,

 “Anonymous does have a leadership and they don’t give a **** about us,” one member known as SparkyBlaze wrote in a self-published list of parting complaints. “Does Anon have the right to remove the anonymity of innocent people? They are always talking about people’s right to remain anonymous, so why are they removing that right?”

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Some followers came to believe that the leaders sought only personal aggrandisement or were effectively in cahoots with the organised criminals who may have raided Sony’s credit-card hoard after Anonymous knocked down the door. Even stalwarts such as [Gregg] Housh are unhappy that much of Anonymous’s infrastructure is now housed on computers used by Russian criminals.

The splintering recalls the fissures in WikiLeaks; late last year, some original members broke away while criticizing Julian Assange. Even the Wikileaks-Anonymous mutual respect has frayed of late, with members of Anonymous taking down WikiLeaks.org a few weeks back while testing a new tool.

Read more on the Financial Times.

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Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, New America, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.