What is Anonymous and what does it do?

International hacking collective Anonymous declared “war” on ISIS this past weekend — a declaration it ascribes to the Paris attacks that occurred last Friday which resulted in the death of 129 people.

AnonymousYouTubeA video of the declaration, in French, featured a speaker wearing a Guy Fawkes mask: the symbolic face of Anonymous, often seen at protests and in videos.

The group has reportedly had an impact already in helping Twitter to identify “thousands” of pro-ISIS social media accounts, and by outing alleged ISIS members’ personal information. And there’s loads more weaponry in Anonymous’ arsenal that it’s still yet to use.

But what is Anonymous? Where does it come from? What does the group do? And what is its goal? 

The group's origins aren't definitive, but most accounts trace Anonymous back to 4chan: an online forum where users' identities are obscured by forced anonymity.

4chan

Even the name 'Anonymous' comes from 4chan, where no usernames are allowed.

4chan

Activism wasn't what first united Anonymous; 'trolling' was.

KnowYourMeme
'Trolling' is the act of offensive frustration with the intent of eliciting an emotional response. Above is a pretty tame example of the act.

The group, populated primarily by 4chan members its formative years, first went after an online game named 'Habbo Hotel.' The intention wasn't to hack, but to troll.

For example, Anonymous flooded the game with extra characters, essentially making it impossible to play for everyone else.

In 2008, the group evolved in a fundamental way: it became involved with 'Project Chanology,' an anti-Scientology movement.

When the Church of Scientology sought to repress an internal promo video featuring Tom Cruise, Anonymous members focused on making it as public as possible.

Cruise appears with Scientology leader and 'Chairman of the Board' David Miscavige.

Anonymous spread the video through as many download sites as possible.

But things got much more political during the Arab Spring protests, which started in Tunisia in late 2010. Anonymous members supported the revolutionaries, and helped by engaging in cyberattacks on the former Tunisian government.

Anonymous
An image that appeared on a Tunisian government website after Anonymous engaged in 'DDoS' attacks that took it offline.

The group was also involved in Egypt, where it helped to share information and images that were being blocked by the Egyptian government.

Picture: Getty Images

The Guy Fawkes mask popularized by Anonymous has become an international symbol of protest.

Picture: Getty Images

More recently, Anonymous took aim at anti-homosexual groups and legislature, like the Westboro Baptist Church and the government of Uganda (where laws prohibiting homosexuality were being considered).

Anonymous

Which isn't to say things are all political: the attack on Sony that brought down the PlayStation Network -- Sony's online PlayStation service -- was perpetrated by members of Anonymous.

Sony

And earlier this year, it promised vengeance for the attack on French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Anonymous

Last Saturday, a video was released spelling out the group's declaration of war on ISIS.

Here's the full video:

And here's an English translation, in case you don't speak French:

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.