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Anonymous - A necessary evil?

Since the beginning of the internet age, law enforcement and law makers have struggled containing a new breed of “crime”, Cybercrime. The complexity of the internet has equipped these “criminals” (for now) with a powerful weapon of anonymity. They can pride themselves with remotely hacking anything; from their neighbours’ nanny cams to major credit card companies. Back in 2003, in the depths of the internet and on a platform created by 4chan.1, a group began to emerge. This unorganized group of internet hackers had no centralized command nor leader. With this kind of administration, it was a nightmare for law enforcement to bring it down… This gave the unregistered, undocumented members of this group so much power.

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They called themselves Anonymous.

Anonymous was the birth of modern day hacking, hacktivism. Anons (Anonymous members) are united by a single goal; government overreach, corporate corruption, and internet censorship. Their first public show of might and hactivism event was in 2008 when they were engaged in a furious public battle with the Church of Scientology in an event dubbed #ProjectChanology. Since #ProjectChanology, Anonymous has been behind dozens of “attacks” which has people debating whether Anonymous is a group of good Internet vigilantes or a group of immoral cyber-criminals?

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On March 2016, just months from the United States elections, the group Anonymous declared “total war” on the then GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, referring to his behaviour “deeply disturbing.” A few days later, Anonymous followed through their promise by posting alleged personal information about Donald Trump. Most of the information was already in the public domain as we later came to learn through a subsequent video from the group. They also, allegedly, hacked his voicemail and replaced it with a Scooby Doo voice.

What if it was true that they had actually hacked Donald Trump? Does that make anonymous cyber-criminals or a necessary group of internet vigilantes? The morality of Anonymous is questionable. But how do we define morality? According to my school of thought, morality is defined by moral rules. Moral rules are against inflicting harm onto others. They demand that no one ever violates them without a justifiable reason. Moral rules make up part of our public system that holds to all rational people. On this understanding, immorality is any action that hurts others without justification.

When anonymous releases personal information of law abiding citizens, my opinion, that does not have any justifiable reason. This is not the first time anonymous has released the personal information of citizens. In 2009, Anonymous leaked personal information of a 14-year old who operated the website nocussing.com. The website aimed at reducing children’s exposure to obscenities in an effort to reduce cursing. In their opinion, the justifiable reason was that nocussing.com was as a pro-censorship website.

Is Anonymous Good or Bad?

Well, the question still lingers. For an organisation without a clear command structure or a constitution governing it, it can easily pass as a terrorist or anarchist organization. If one was to look at most of its actions, there is a hint that they seek justice in a way that is generally reasonable. But since the group is involved in a wide range of activities, they close the line once or twice. But in the way anonymous is set up, everyone could be anonymous. Anonymous membership just requires you to have knowledge in hacking and just call yourself anonymous. Some immoral activities by some few members don’t necessarily represent the views of the whole group.

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Food for thought: What if the alleged hack on Donald Trump was a publicity stunt by some campaign team?

06 April 2016

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