Anonymous is the online group that spun off online message board 4chan and is behind Operation Payback, the online attacks against the companies who shut off Wikileaks. The Economist has a great “interview” with them.
Anonymous are so elusive because they’re so decentralized. It’s people from everywhere in the world who get together in chatrooms and decide who to hit and how. There’s no official membership of the group — people come and go as they want — and not even official leadership. Some people, called OPs (after “original poster”, the person who creates a thread on 4chan and other message boards) are self-appointed leaders, but if their leadership isn’t accepted people simply don’t do it and they stop being leaders. OPs go offline every once in a while and are instantly replaced.
The Economist calls this “the 24-hour Athenian democracy.”
Other interesting stuff we learned:
- Because the group is so elusive, the “interview” didn’t even take place over IRC but on a wiki, where members would add, edit and modify answers as they went. The interviewer asked where people are from; some people said New Zealand, Sweden, etc. and another person deleted the whole thing and replaced it with “We are Everywhere. We are everyone. We are Anonymous.”
- They ironically call the software they use to do denial of service attacks the “low orbit ion cannon”, in a nod to countless sci-fi novels.
- Anons recognise their limits. Denial of service attacks are only a mildly annoying form of attack, and they know all it can accomplish is to get attention for their cause.
- The biggest takeaway for us is this: the decentralization of Anonymous doesn’t just mean that they’re impossible to stamp down, but it actually works out to a pretty organised force. For example, they voted against attacking the site of the London metro police, and against the Swedish prosecutor’s website, because they realised it wouldn’t halt the prosecution.
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.