As I write this article reports are coming in that the Egyptian government has shut down it’s core group of service providers meaning the country has no internet access – “It unplugged itself entirely from the Internet to try and silence dissent.” 3. This just one day after Anonymous posted a video declaring their support for the people of egypt and challenging the government to drop their internet censorship policies or face attacks on government websites.
Here is an extract from the official press release:
To the Egyptian Government: Anonymous challenges all those who are involved in censorship. Anonymous wants you to offer free access to uncensored media in your entire country. When you ignore this message, not only will we attack your government websites, Anonymous will also make sure that the international media sees the horrid reality you impose upon your people. Anonymous will not spare anybody who supports this suppression. It is in the hands of the Egyptian government to end this: continue your repression and you will be subject to civil protest – lend an ear to the claim of freedom from your people and the hostilities will cease.
To the Egyptian people: We stand together and united against this oppression. This struggle is not just for you alone, but for the whole of humankind. Citizens can no longer endure their governments abuse. When forced by the threat of oppression, we will be loud as hell – and when the people roar, it will send shivers down the spines of all those who stifle our freedom and take our precious liberties away. 4
The internet gave a voice to many Egyptians who had begun to speak freely about their experiences living under Mubarak’s rule via social networking groups like Twitter and Facebook. It is hard to comprehend that a government would shut down an entire countries internet to silence it’s people, clearly they see the freedom of speech that this medium can provide as a threat.
The situation in Egypt has developed beyond protest and we are now seeing a people actively taking back their country. We are witnessing a revolution and the downfall of a tyrannical system. We can only hope that the Egyptian people find the freedom and peace that they rightfully deserve as human beings.
Recently we got to witness a blatant furthering of the online censorship agenda as the media was filled with reports about the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables release.
It is very rare that information makes it into the public arena without someone giving it the OK, whether it be from governments, corporations, or even mindless celebrity gossip, it all has it’s role in swaying opinions, furthering careers or destroying trust. This is not a particularly conspiratorial view of the media, a little research will reveal how these systems of control work.
When it comes to reviewing what we are shown in the media, it is a great help if you develop the ability to “zoom out” from an issue. If you can see the larger perspective and see who is benefiting from the situation you can get a better feel for what is really going on. A great example of this is the use of the word “terrorism”, how many times have we seen “terror” events happen which are quickly followed by the passing of new bills and “security” policies that give governments more control and more power to monitor it’s citizens – do you think that these bills and policies are really about terrorism?
You are more likely to win powerball twice in a row than be attacked by terrorists. People fear terrorism because it is hyped beyond belief by the media, why? Because it creates fear, and when a population is fearful they can be controlled and will blindly follow solutions that are handed to them from “authorities” without a great deal of consideration. This is nothing new, It is a psychological tactic that has been used through out history.
Again, this may seem like some kind of conspiracy theory but it is not. I would encourage you to do a little investigation into human psychology and the media, look at some events that have happened over the last few years and the key role that the media has played in steering opinion in the wrong direction, quite often with official support . The media and government agencies have become so comfortable with lying that they aren’t even attempting to hide information anymore, when the FBI gets caught celebrating the fact that they prevented their own bomb plot it almost becomes laughable. 5
With unique Internet ID’s 6 just over the horizon for Americans and Internet “Kill switch” 7 policies being brought back for review, Anonymous are in for a challenging year. They have already been branded as “domestic terrorists” by the mainstream media so the vilification campaign has begun. As their efforts to promote awareness about internet censorship gain more profile they are likely to be a target for some elaborate disinformation.
I would suggest approaching the media as you would a phone call that starts with “How are you this evening Mr Brown?” – assume you are being sold something. Turn off your television, look a little deeper into the issues that are being presented as important, find some sources outside the mainstream and shape your own opinions, don’t just adopt someone else’s. After all, if you aren’t shaping your own reality then someone is shaping it for you.
The internet has always been a place where people can freely express themselves and share information, this may not be the case for much longer. Internet censorship is becoming a real threat as an increasing amount of governments start to implement censorship policies and restrict certain websites from their citizens, within the next five years you may not be able to express your political opinion online without having your website shut down or restricted if your view does not comply with acceptable mainstream thought. The internet may just become another channel for official information dissemination like the network news that we see every day on our televisions – “here is the official story, accept it, do not think about it any further, you have been told what you need to know.”You can read some interesting data about the current status of censorship at So you think the internet is still free?
Personally I have always felt that protest as a little futile. It rarely seems to effect any large scale change although I do enjoy seeing people unite for a cause. My opinion has definitely changed over the last couple of years as a particular underground protest collective has risen from the internet and made not only the media take notice but managed to strike a little fear into large corporations and governments around the world. I am of course talking about Anonymous.
To try and describe what or who Anonymous are is a difficult task, there is no leadership hierarchy and no identifiable membership, protest targets are selected by consensus and actions can be taken as individuals under the “Anonymous” label or by the collective as a whole. To call them a “group” is not really correct so I will use the term “collective” and refer to members as “Anons” (which is part of their insider language).
One of their official websites provides the following statement:
Anonymous is a cultural phenomenon which began on internet image boards. Many such boards require no registration for posting, and every poster remains Anonymous. This format of communication is inherently noisy and chaotic. However, the unprecedented openness made possible by such boards has nurtured the appearance of a unique and persistent culture.
We are a collection of individuals united by ideas. You likely know Anonymous, although you don’t know exactly who we are. We are your brothers and sisters, your parents and children, your superiors and your underlings. We are the concerned citizens standing next to you. Anonymous is everywhere, yet nowhere. Our strength lies in our numbers. Our will as a whole is the combined will of individuals. Our greatest advantage is a knowledge of the fundamentals we share as human beings. This knowledge is a fruit of our anonymity. 1
In the Frequently Asked Questions section of a Project Chanology web site, they state that “The leadership of Anonymous is non-existent. We have no controlling party. We fall under the sway of no individual or organization. We are directed only by the decisions of the whole. Guidance comes from the message, not from the individual.”
Anonymous came into the public eye in 2008 after receiving international media coverage for their “Project Chanology” protests against the Church of Scientology. The project was initiated after the Church of Scientology removed leaked information from the internet including that infamous Tom Cruise video. Anonymous saw this as a form of internet censorship and began a series of denial-of-service attacks against Scientology websites, prank calls, and black faxes to Scientology centers.
A denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) or distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS attack) is an attempt to make a computer resource unavailable to its intended users. Although the means to carry out, motives for, and targets of a DoS attack may vary, it generally consists of the concerted efforts of a person or people to prevent an Internet site or service from functioning efficiently or at all, temporarily or indefinitely. 2
After the initial online attacks Anonymous made an unexpected move, a date and time was agreed upon through their online networks, a viral campaign began via youtube and Project Chanology spilled into the streets with protests in over 100 cities around the world. This was the first time that the collective had taken action beyond the internet, it had established a physical presence that caused the world to stand up and take notice.
Protestors adopted the Guy Fawkes mask featured in Alan Moore’s graphic novel series “V for Vendetta” (later adapted into a film) as a symbol of their anonymity. Anons can come together as complete strangers and thanks to their masks, remain strangers. The only uniting factor is the social change that they want to achieve – age, ethnicity and gender are all irrelevant.
“A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by people. A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world.” – V
The bold move of evolving Anonymous into real world protest showed the power of online social networking and collective action. The ability to mobilize groups of people around the world for a cause without any established leadership is something rarely heard of, particularly with a protest of this scale. It gave rise to a new form of collective activism that even it’s participants weren’t prepared for, whatever Anonymous was before this date, it had now changed, the game had become a lot more complex.
Many of the original members of the collective were upset by the media coverage and the new direction Anonymous was taking claiming that it was never meant to enter the mainstream and in particular struggled with the idea of “real life” protests. The original concept was to hack websites for lulz (laughs) but suddenly the group had become an established brand that had the power to unite people for a cause, such power comes with great responsibility.
Anonymous promote strong anti-violence policies for their protest gatherings, one of their videos states “Rule 1: No violence. Stay calm and level, riots will not get our point across. The word is mightier than the sword, speech and logic are our weapons not stones and molotov cocktails.” Anyone using violence is excluded from a protest.
1. Why We Protest, More about Anonymous
2. Wikipedia, Denial of Service Attack
3. CBS News, The Day Part Of The Internet Died: Egypt Goes Dark
4. AnonNews, Operation Egypt – Anonymous Press Release
5. Tech Dirt, FBI Celebrates That It Prevented FBI’s Own Bomb Plot
Jeff Jacobsen, Anonymous and the war on Scientology
The Cleaver, Reality Simulation and Culture
Disinformation, Television: Opiate of the Masses