How Cyber Hackers Get Press
Just over a week ago, I wrote a story in support of hacktivism. Within the article I briefly mention Anonymous, the hacking collective currently leading the charge in the infamous Operation Anti-Security.
After the story was published, an Anonymous member (or supporter, it is hard to draw the line between members and supporters when it comes to Anonymous) reached out to me under the pseudonym "Testudo Smith."
On July 3, Testudo sent me a written Anonymous "press release." Testudo informed me that the release would be published on July 4, in video form, by the AnonPress YouTube channel.
Here is some background: Supposedly, Anonymous has no real hierarchical structure. However, the group does have a set of significant "press outlets," (twitter accounts, YouTube channels, Facebook pages, etc.) each presumably managed by a handful of people. The outlets function to keep the traditional media and the public up to date on the activities of Anonymous members. The AnonPress YouTube channel is one of these significant press outlets.
The AnonPress ended up publishing Testudo’s release, as scheduled. Over the next few days, Testudo and I maintained an e-mail correspondence regarding the AnonParty, his connection to Anonymous, and his video’s circulation throughout the press.
Within a short period, the video received thousands of views and was written about by PCWorld, Gizmodo, and the International Business Times. Testudo’s announcement even received an endorsement from the tremendously popular (over 100,000 followers) AnonymousIRC twitter account.
What’s all this fuss about?
The press release announces the formation of an Anonymous affiliated legal-political party, or advocacy group, called “The AnonParty.” In an exclusive interview I conducted, Testudo describes the AnonParty as “a political advocacy group that seeks to work within the constraints of the law. [Its] mission is to provide Anonymous with the legal channels with which it can achieve its goals."
While the YouTube announcement garnered the support of some Anonymous members, others responded to it with ire. On July 9, Testudo sent out an e-mail notifying me that the release had been removed from the AnonPress channel because its manager “got afraid as soon as it became slightly controversial.” The video can now be found here:
What do I think? Two things:
First, Anonymous derives much of its insusceptibility and potency from its very nebulous, decentralized structure. If the group transformed into a traditionally cohesive political entity, it would be much more limited in its capacity to advocate for policy. However, I doubt that allying with a legal advocacy group would hurt Anonymous. If anything, having a legal affiliate will open up a wider range of possibilities for the hacking collective.
Second, the quality of Testudo’s video is decent, at best. The video, produced by someone who “was just bored,” was shoddy and barely viral. The fact that it managed to get the attention of PCWorld, Gizmodo, and the International Business Times speaks volumes about how wildly successful Anonymous has been at maneuvering the press.
All in all, this brush with Anonymous was bizarre. I guess I should have expected that much from the start.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons