Anonymous is a loosely associated international network of activist and hacktivist entities. A website nominally associated with the group describes it as “an Internet gathering” with “a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives”.The group became known for a series of well-publicized publicity stunts and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on government, religious, and corporate websites.
Anonymous originated in 2003 on the image board 4chan, representing the concept of many online and offline community users simultaneously existing as anarchic, digitized global brain. Anonymous members (known as “Anons”) can be distinguished in public by the wearing of stylized Guy Fawkes masks.
In its early form, the concept was adopted by a decentralized online community acting anonymously in a coordinated
manner, usually toward a loosely self-agreed goal, and primarily focused on entertainment, or “lulz”. Beginning with 2008’s Project Chanology—a series of protests, pranks, and hacks targeting the Church of Scientology—the Anonymous collective became increasingly associated with collaborative hacktivism on a number of issues internationally. Individuals claiming to align themselves with Anonymous undertook protests and other actions (including direct action) in retaliation against copyright focused campaigns by motion picture and recording industry trade associations. Later targets of Anonymous hacktivism included government agencies of the US, Israel, Tunisia, Uganda, and others; ISIS; child pornography sites; copyright protection agencies; the Westboro Baptist Church; and corporations such as PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and Sony. Anons have publicly supported WikiLeaks and the Occupy movement. Relate
d groups LulzSec and Operation AntiSec carried out cyberattacks on US government agencies, media, video game companies, military contractors, military personnel, and police officers, resulting in the attention of law enforcement to the groups’ activities. Some actions by the group have been described as being anti-Zionist. It has threatened to cyber-attack Israel and engaged in the “#OpIsrael” cyber-attacks of Israeli websites on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in 2013.
Dozens of people have been arrested for involvement in Anonymous cyber attacks, in countries including the US, UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Turkey. Evaluations of the group’s actions and effectiveness vary widely. Supporters have called the group “freedom fighters” and digital Robin Hoods while critics have described them as “a cyber lynch-mob” or “cyber terrorists”.In 2012, Time called Anonymous one of the “100 most influential people” in the world.
After the Paris attacks in November 2015, they released a video declaring war on ISIS. They are well known for unusual tactics and taking websites offline, apparently motivated by social justice and a reaction against censorship.