Can a campaign calling on the collective strength of the masses succeed? Anonymous say you should bank on it!

‘Operation Black October’ is a new campaign launched by the hacktivist group Anonymous. In a video posted on YouTube, the group urges people around the world to stop using banking services for the whole month (Das 2015). This “peaceful revolution” aims to demonstrate the collective strength and independence of the 99% from the corrupt global financial system (Das 2015).

‘Operation Black October’ is just one of a plethora of politically motivated campaigns that have spurred Anonymous’s remarkable transformation in the public imagination from “feared Internet folk devils into digital warriors of justice” (Coleman 2014, cited in Chen 2014). What started out as the ‘Internet Hate Machine’ has evolved into one of the most organised, technically skilled and socially aware activist groups operating today (Chen 2014).

Despite being a “force for good in the world” (Coleman 2014, cited in Chen 2014), characterising Anonymous as cyber-libertarian is problematic. While cyber-libertarians fight for the freedom to individually prosper, Anonymous fights for freedom from systemic inequalities created by oppressive nation-states (Jurgenson & Rey 2014, p.2657).

Unlike cyber-libertarians who have historically viewed the Internet as an unregulated space that allows for gains in individual freedom and empowerment, cyber-anarchists see the Internet as a means of abolishing all hierarchies (Jurgenson & Rey 2014, p.2657). In the case of ‘Operation Black October’, Anonymous aims to disrupt the technology infrastructure of established financial institutions for the 99%. This in stark contrast to cyber-libertarians such as Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO’s, Eric Schmidt, who fight for an environment of enforced transparency, not to make the world a better place, but ultimately for their own financial gain.

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Reference List:

Chen, A 2014, ‘The Truth About Anonymous’s Activism’, The Nation, 11 November, accessed 11 October 2015, <https://www.thenation.com/article/truth-about-anonymouss-activism/>.

Das, S 2015, ‘Anonymous targets the U.S. banking system with operation ‘Black October’, Hacked, 29 September, accessed 11 October 2015, <https://hacked.com/anonymous-targets-u-s-banking-system-operation-black-october/>.

Jurgenson, N & Rey, PJ 2014, ‘Liquid Information Leaks’, International Journal of Communication, vol.8, p.2651-2664.

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8 thoughts on “Can a campaign calling on the collective strength of the masses succeed? Anonymous say you should bank on it!

  1. Hey Giverny, nice post
    Although very familiar with anonymous I’m actually quite unfamiliar with Operation Black October, it appears to be one of their more passive campaigns from your description. This example made your post that more engaging for me as you didn’t rely on a well known campaign such as OpIsis or OpKKK so great work!
    The evolution of this hacker collective is extremely interesting in itself after looking at it’s birth from 4chan, they do appear to be shifting into more of a ‘white hat’ hacker organisation, rather than a ‘Hate Machine”. One thing you didn’t mention however is the notion that Anonymous lacks any form of discernible hierarchy, which is quite often credited as the downfall of this group. Would you agree with this notion in the bigger picture of Anonymous’ influence?

  2. Hi Jesse! Thank you for your comment.

    I think Anonymous’s non-hierarchical structure is central to the group’s success. No hierarchy means that all members are equal and are working together – personal identity and the individual remain subordinate to a focus on the collective and the ultimate fight for freedom against oppressive governments and all-powerful corporations. Hierarchy involves leadership, fixed chains of command and individual power. This can create tension and conflict. Hierarchy creates a more complex organisational structure – resulting in a longer, and, thus, slower feedback loops. Decentralised network typologies are more efficient for this reason. It seems that Anonymous has relinquished control in order to maintain coordination and cooperation. Its members are typically strangers to one another and its motives are diverse, yet this is its key to success. As one blogger reflects, (http://futurismic.com/2011/05/12/anonymous-an-anarchist-analysis/), “The collective is headless, it cannot be destroyed.”

  3. Hi Giverny,

    I like that you have highlighted a white-hatted hacker group, as many people this week including myself, have focused on black-hatted hacker groups that work to conquer greater power for a negative reason. Anonymous work collectively and as you stated there is no hierarchy within the group. Do you think that it is more difficult to engage and understand how people work online than in the ‘real’ world? I mean often in a group, someone will assume leadership and others will just automatically follow, unless someone challenges. Do you think that it is harder to gage people’s abilities and their inabilities online? For the purpose of the Anonymous group, it has worked better for them, as you said that there is no fixed chain of command. This means freedom and openness as it is a decentralized network. I personally feel that the individuals involved must be self motivated because there is no one pushing them if they loose interest. What do you think?

    • Hi Amy. You have made some very thought-provoking points. I am not sure how Anonymous delegates its tasks and whether its tracks who does what work, however, I can see the point you are making. As all members of the group are motivated by their own interests to achieve the common, collective goal, perhaps this is not such an issue. I think Anonymous is very clever in establishing an informal and non-hierarchical structure as it makes it very hard for authorities to trace its members.

  4. This was really interesting. I think people often get confused between cyber-anarchists and cyber-libertarians. I think they are often lumped in together as ‘those dangerous hacker people’. I think often cyber anarchists do these extravagant and often dangerous things that can reuin the reputaion of hackers in general. You might be interested in this story http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/8829165/Cyber-anarchists-blamed-for-unleashing-a-series-of-Facebook-rape-pages.html

    A group of cyber-anarchists published some facebook rape pages in order to carry out their ‘right to share pornography’. All in the name of ‘absolute online freedom’.

    • Hi Jacqueline. Thank you, the example is really interesting. I can’t believe how many likes the page has. It is also incredible that the the content of the page was compared to pub humour. Alleging humour does not give the page a free pass to promoting hate content and inciting violence. I don’t see how making jokes about rape is funny either.

  5. This was a super informative post, especially for me as the concepts of hacking and ‘hacktivism’ are almost entirely new to me. I was under the impression that most hacktivists are acting from a place of cyber-libertarianism. However, your post and the example you used with Anonymous have really helped me understand that there is a whole other angle that some take. That being cyber-anarchy. Thanks for opening my mind on this whole topic.

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