Lolcats. The Church of Scientology. Sony. HBGary Hack. FBI. Paypal, Visa & MasterCard. Mubarak. Occupy Wall Street. SOPA/PIPA.
Anonymous has been busy for the past few years. It started as juvenile pranks on 4chan's boards, but grew and became a powerful mechanism against oppressive governments and unscrupulous corporations.
Its trajectory was beautifully captured in the documentary "We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists", that will be released later this year. I had the pleasure to watch the premiere in Austin during SXSW, and I must say - it's f..ing brilliant. The movie is still in post-production, so the version that will hit the theaters may be slightly different.
During an exclusive interview about the movie this morning, film director "Brian Knappenberger" was joined on stage by former Anonymous member Gregg Housh and two special guests Anon behind masks: one from Austin, and another just called Anonymous9000, connecting via Skype from an undisclosed location (and using a somewhat robotic voice changer). It was surreal.
Together they gave a passionate and fascinating perspective of the evolution of Anonymous, its internal workings, and the journey since 4Chan to the present day. They discussed how the group went after the Church of Scientology, why they hacked HBGary, discussed the release of confidential data of Sony customers, and how lately they've started to engage in social movements around freedom, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and the support to Wikileaks' founder, Julian Assange.
A few highlights of the session, in no particular order:
some Anons don't agree with the dump of personal information (like in Sony's case). But a few radical sub-groups - like Lulzsec - have a different opinion, and believe the press only pays attention when something concrete happens. Ironically, one of the most vocal supporters of dumping personal data was Sabu - which was revealed last week to be an FBI informant since June 2011. Conflict of interest, maybe?
Anons in general don't support attacking the press, as they believe in freedom of expression themselves (even when it is press against Anonymous). Some may disagree. Others simply don't care; they're in for the lulz, and accuse others of being moralfags. It's these constant disagreements within Anonymous' anarchic structure that gave birth to dissidents, like Lulzsec.
"Thousands of twenty-something socially awkward nerds got laid for the first time due to these movements and events in real life. Behind a mask, they all felt more comfortable in expressing themselves and talking with girls. We saw several marriages between Anons that met while protesting against the Church of Scientology and others".
"The DDoS attacks have just one objective: attract press. Whenever we have a message that we want the press to distribute, we DDoS someone so the press will publish the news that _Anonymous attacked again, followed by what we wanted them to communicate. Otherwise we'd be just ignored. Look at SOPA/PIPA; we've been talking about this for years, and no one ever cared. Then we DDoS'd RIAA/MPAA/DoJ websites... and the press showed up in full force overnight."_
Watch the trailer here [YouTube].
Update 2012-11-17: now also available for rental on Vimeo. This is the first time that Vimeo does movie rental.
Update 2012-10-17: it is opening in theatres this weekend. NY, LA, Houston, Canada, Rio de Janeiro and others. Check to see if your city is in the list. You can also pre-order the movie, starting on 10/30. But make sure you watch at the big screen; it's worth it.