Anonymous: righter of wrongs or dangerous hacktivist?

Stalked on the internet for years, victim of bullying, Amanda Todd, a fifteen years old girl from Canada,  committed suicide  the tenth of october.

A few days after her death, the hacktivist group Anonymous revealed the complete identity of the stalker, Kody Maxson. Short after this publication the police subsequently said that claims were unfounded. What are the goals of Anonymous? Who are they? Against who are they fighting? And what are the dangers of vigilante justice online?

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«We are anonymous, we are legions, we do not forget, we do not forgive, expect us»

Behind this sentence, which has been seen worldwide for the last past years, is the hacktivist group Anonymous.

Behind the V for Vendetta mask, they claim to be the 21-century defenders of justice. Fighting against paedophilia on the Internet, supporting Julien Assange when some banks have blocked the accounts of his organisation Wikileaks. They also played an important role during the Iranian revolution and the Arabic spring.

Anonymous is not an organisation; it has no rules except fighting for the freedom of expression, equality, and justice. To do it, the adherents organise drastic actions by using the technologies of the Internet: hacking, hijacking, replacing homepages with tracts, and so on.

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How to join anonymous: a beginner’s guide 

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Shortly after Amanda Todd’s suicide, Anonymous posted a first video threatening her bullies to reveal his identity to the rest of the world: “We know what you did, we are all around (…). Take responsibility for your actions“.

Whitout any surprise they delivered him few days after in an other video. As soon as it was posted, the information went viral and spread all around the world through social medias such as Facebook and Twitter, provoking lots of reactions

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The anonymous reveal the identity of the bullies

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One, among hundreds, Facebook group called “Kody Maxson is a murderer” was created the fifteenth of october just after the video was posted. Comments such as “I will find you and kill you with my bare hands“, “i hope he is running for the rest of his life that fucking fat durty pedo if any catches please kill him in the most panifull way possible(…)” or “I want street justice. Not justice. (…)!” were written.

Therefore, some comments are more moderate and try to remind people that they aren’t the justice and that they are doing the same as Amanda’s bullies with a presumed innocent: “so we’re ending bullying, by bullying… right on”.

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While the debate is intensive, a man who might be innocent is judged, threatened to death without any chance to defend himself. Even though the police’s intervention, it was to late. Today, almost one month after the police has said the accusations were unfounded people are still injuring him. Is it really what Anonymous wanted?

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The fact that some citizens are unmaking cybercriminals instead of the Police reveals a lack of skills and knowledge from the law enforcements with new technologies. The cyber criminality is not well known. The death of Amanda Todd is the starting point of a new public awareness. Indeed, in British Columbia, where she was living, politicians want to create a new law in order to protect minor against cyber bully.

But this vigilante justice online can be dangerous and in Amanda Todd’s case, the Police is loosing precious time in their enquiry because of false rumors.  According to Sgt. Peter Thiessen, a spokesman for the Lower Mainland District RCMP: ‘’One of our big challenges right now, is false information that is being spread (…). One unfounded allegation involved the release of information that spread quickly online identifying a man as Amanda’s tormenter”.

According to the police, Anonymous has done a mistake, one that could cost the life of an other person… The defensive lawyer remind that “the system isn’t suppose to convict someone before charging him, it isn’t suppose to be judged during execution all in the public forum. You know we have a justice system it’s suppose to work, it does work”.

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Video from CBC TV: report concerning the problems caused by the Anonymous’ false accusations

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In conclusion, it’s very difficult to analyze the actions of Anonymous. Because we cannot know who they are, because everybody can be an Anonymous and because this “movement” has no structure at all. You never know who is hiding behind it and what is their real intention.

The universal values they seek to defend are honorable, it is the way to defend them that is more debatable. In the case of Amanda Todd, were they right to publish the name of the presumed bully before and instead of the police? Furthermore and above all, were they right to give the identity of the « guilty » to everyone through the Internet?

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Leila Ueberschlag

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Links to know more about:

1. Anonymous:

http://www.planete-plus-intelligente.lemonde.fr/organisations/qui-sont-les-anonymous-_a-12-1265.html2.

2. Vigilante justice online:

http://www.pri.org/stories/science/technology/the-rise-of-online-vigilante-justice1901.html4. 

3. Hacking, hijacking, and so on. 

 http://computer.yourdictionary.com/hijacking

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