Rocking the world

I’ve been in  admirer, follower  and supporter of  the anonymous ungroup for years. They’re truly making a difference as government and corporate entities have discovered, and are still discovering.

For the first time  in history,  the people are truly taking charge of their own fates and destinies.

To coin a phrase,  the digital pen is mightier than the word.

The  traditional rulers; the kings, the barons the nobles of various kinds; have  kept  ordinary people in thrall since time immemorial, but in this century a tiny handful of  passionately determined men, women, boys and girls, decided enough was enough  and under the cloak  of anonymity, set about making changes.

They rocked the world, and they’re still rocking  it.

Crossing the line

“[…] when the government of Israel publicly threatened to sever all Internet and other telecommunications into and out of Gaza they crossed a line in the sand,”  says  a recent Anonymous statement, continuing.

“As the former dictator of Egypt Mubarack learned the hard way – we are ANONYMOUS and NO ONE shuts down the Internet on our watch.

“To the IDF and government of Israel we issue you this warning only once. Do NOT shut down the Internet into the ”Occupied Territories'”, and cease and desist from your terror upon the innocent people of Palestine

“To the people of Gaza and the “Occupied Territories”, know that Anonymous stands with you in this fight. We will do everything in our power to hinder the evil forces of the IDF arrayed against you. We will use all our resources to make certain you stay connected to the Internet and remain able to transmit your experiences to the world.

“As a start, we have put together the Anonymous Gaza Care Package – http://bit.ly/XH87C5 – which contains instructions in Arabic and English that can aid you in the event the Israel government makes good on it’s threat to attempt to sever your Internet connection.

“It also contains useful information on evading IDF surveillance, and some basic first aid and other useful information.

 “We will continue to expand and improve this document in the coming days, and we will transmit it to you by every means at our disposal.

“We encourage you to download this package, and to share it with your fellow Palestinians …

The rise of Anonymous

There are now quite a few  Internet pages  spreading  the word of Anonymous. But in 2010,  I interviewed  a young man who published one of, if not the first, news sources  for Anonymous  Hackivists,  as they’re now popularly known.

Our discussion is reprinted here and elsewhere and, as of  today, November  21, it’d been viewed 25,608 times.

From p2pnet talks with AnonNews, December 24  2010 >>>>

For me, the most important event of 2010 is the rise of Anonymous as the first genuine force for change in this 21st digital century.

Letters to the editor don’t work. Street demonstrations and protests don’t work. Appealing to the people we elected to serve us most definitely doesn’t work.

Individuals around the world have recognised the desperate state we’re in and that if it’s going to change, they’ll have to change it.

With that in the wings, last Sunday “There’s a new freedom of speech site online”, I posted. It’s called AnonNews. “Anyone can post to the site, and moderators will approve relevant posts”, it says, promising :

No censorship takes place!

For information, edits, moderator applications, and everything else join the IRC channel or visit info@anonnews.org. Press can contact press@anonnews.org (we are not an official press platform, but we’d gladly answer questions about AnonNews, or, more broadly, get you in touch with other Anons).

Behind it is an Anon I’ll call Joe. He’s based in Europe. No surprises there. North America isn’t exactly a place where movements for freedom, or freedom of speech, can survive.

He and I had an email exchange about AnonNews and his plans for it and what struck me was his overall attitude. It is, I think, typical of many, if not most, of the people who call themselves Anonymous, individually and collectively.

The lamescream media persist in trying to claim there’s some kind of mysterious central body that’s in overall control. The Guardian called it a “cabal”. But the truly unique aspect of this song for freedom and change is: although the voices are in unison, there’s no actual choir and no actual conductor.

I’ve spoken to a number of Anons and it seems clear to me that if Anonymous is a first-time phenomenon, equally unique is the fact it is, like P2P itself, completely decentralised.

‘I care a lot about things like freedom of speech, and honesty … ‘

The creator of AnonNews is a freelance web developer, programmer, and web designer.

“I care a lot about things like freedom of speech, and honesty, which is pretty much the main reason I got involved with Anonymous”, he told me. “I keep the amount of paid work to a minimum.

“I invest most of my time in various non-profit projects like AnonNews, a non-profit social network [still in its very early stages] and more locally, a refurbishment project which basically consists of collecting old computer hardware, refurbishing where possible, installing Linux, and giving them away to people who can’t afford it. ”

So are you a part of an organisation? – I wondered.

“A  very important thing”, Joe stressed. “If I say anything regarding Anonymous as a whole, it’s my personal view and opinion. Anonymous is not an actual group of people. Anyone who decides to sail under the banner of Anonymous, will be Anonymous.

“There are no official spokesmen or representatives, nor will there ever be. One person cannot define Anonymous, as Anonymous will be whatever people want it to be. This is a concept that many media fail to grasp (or, as someone very nicely worded, they are used to simple ‘take me to your leader’ approaches), and it’s very important to keep this in mind.

“Anonymous could be called an anarchistic group, meaning there is no central governance. Anyone can set up something, and others may join, and they may develop their own way of keeping things in control. However, no one will ever be able to speak for the movement as it is simply too diverse.

“In true unofficial Anonymous wording: ‘We are your brothers. We are your sisters. We are you, we are everyone around you. We are Anonymous’.”

Questions. Answers.

Newton: What was your aim in starting AnonNews?

Joe: Basically I want to provide a centralized and reliable platform where people can stay updated on pretty much everything about Anonymous. “Groups” within Anonymous, by lack of a better word, can post press releases to keep both the people and the press updated on the latest projects and operations. External news sources can be added, and voted up and down, to give people a quick overview of which articles present an accurate view of the “movement”. For example, a very recent article by The Guardian on a hierarchy within Anonymous [http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/16/wikileaks-anonymous-hierarchy-emerges] was massively voted down in only hours after being added. That gave a very good indication that the article was not accurate at all. Not only do these votes give an idea of the accuracy of the article, it also shows the average opinion about certain events.

Currently on top at AnonNews is an article about a Dutch man being released several days after being arrested for involvement with Operation Payback. It clearly shows that the release of this ‘Anon’ was very well received by Anonymous. The last section is pretty much a list of sites representing “groups” within Anonymous, and several other related sites. For every item in every section, comments can be added. The press release regarding a DDoS attack on Time.com was received very negatively in the comments section, and I believe that is one of the reasons the mainstream media did not pick up on this as being a “real” or serious operation.

Newton: Do you have anyone working with you?

Joe: I do the entire development of the platform itself on my own; however, currently there are about 20 moderators who continuously monitor submitted entries (and a bot in the IRC channel, announcing new entries). While external articles are immediately visible on the site and monitored afterwards, press releases and related websites are reviewed prior to being published. This is mainly to avoid the publishing of unrelated submissions (quite a few Wikileaks-related submissions come in that are not in any way related to Anonymous). For the translation of the interface (which is currently being worked on), pretty much anyone can contribute and there is no real staff. The entire translating goes through an “EtherPad”, a collaborative notepad that several people can work with at the same time. Anyone can anonymously contribute to the translations by translating something into his own language, or by correcting mistakes. And of course the content is being provided by the users, also anonymously. In a broad sense you could say the entire world works with me on the site.

Newton: Did you set Anon News up as a permanent site?

Joe: That is certainly the intention. This site is not actually in any way related to AnonOps or Operation Payback, other than providing a platform for them as well. Several press releases have already appeared on AnonNews about causes that are not in any way related to Wikileaks or AnonOps/Operation Payback, and that’s exactly what I’d like to see. Anonymous has previously been involved with various other things like Project Chanology (an anti-Scientology movement) and the original Operation Payback that was about filesharing, rather than about Wikileaks. It’s not a new movement in the sense that it didn’t exist before, yet it will never be the same because there will always be different people contributing to it. I am certainly intending to keep AnonNews running, no matter what happens, for any future projects sparking from Anonymous as well. The power of Anonymous is that anyone who wants to sail under that flag, is automatically part of Anonymous, so new projects WILL always spark.

Newton: Are you looking for help?

Joe: For the development of the platform itself, I think any help would be counter-productive as the project is too small to actually have any benefits in collaboration. However, when everything is completely “finished” (right now I’m working on the multi-language interface, as well as language filters and tags), the source code will be released so anyone can use it. Moderation help is always welcome, and those interested in moderating (which does not require any special knowledge) are always welcome to send an e-mail or join the IRC channel. Translation efforts will always be community-based, and these will be announced on the website. Pretty much anyone can contribute to that. The same goes for submitting content. If you are bored, feel free to find articles about Anonymous on the web (these do not have to be recent, and they don’t have to be specifically related to Operation Payback either) and submit them on the site.  The only thing I really need some help with at the moment is hosting. Although everything runs fine now, I can’t be sure that the hosting company / datacenter won’t freak out about the contents on the site (which may be, in some cases, controversial) and as I’ve seen in the past few days, the DDoS protection could use some work. Add to that that I don’t have a massive income, and any help with hosting would always be welcome :-)

Newton: Were you involved with Anon(s) or Operation Payback before the launch?

Joe: I had already been researching Anonymous before the entire Wikileaks Cablegate story started to play out, but to be honest I hadn’t even heard of Operation Payback (which was about copyright, rather than Wikileaks, originally). I guess I could say I have always been involved with Anonymous as an entity or movement, since I have always fought for the same goals that Anonymous is trying to achieve in general; freedom, and in most cases freedom of information and expression. Even when it didn’t “exist” yet, people were essentially already striving for the same goals.

Newton: Have you heard from anyone on 4chan and/or OP?

Joe: To be honest, I’m not even sure how I got involved. I think it was through the Wikileaks IRC channel that I learned of Operation Payback. I certainly didn’t find it on 4chan, which I don’t even visit very frequently. Anonymous may have originated from 4chan, but I don’t think there’s any relation still left between those two.

Newton: Some sections of the lamescream mainstream media are suggesting there’s a growing, and unhappy, division between Anon(s) and Operation Payback and indeed “To show your support for freedom, kindly halt any and all activities that would give Anonymous a bad name. Including, but not limited to: – Black Faxes – DDoS Attacks – Spam TL;DR cut that shit out” said one of the posters on Anon News [http://www.p2pnet.net/story/46913].

Joe: A “growing division” is, I think, not even possible. As described earlier, Anonymous is not really a group, so there is nothing to be split. Some may agree with a specific move, some may disagree, and there’s no reliable way to give any numbers on how many people agree or disagree with a plan. The only thing you can measure is the “average opinion” of the mass.

Newton: Do you believe the traditional press really understand what’s now happening online?

Joe: I’m fairly sure they don’t have a clue. The problem with a large part of the traditional press is that they see “the people” as consumers, and not as individual human beings with their own opinions and views. In Anonymous they see things like terrorists, “hackers” (which is entirely the wrong word), or people who just like taking down websites. They fail to see what Anonymous really is; a collective of people who want to stand up for their opinion, and fight for their freedoms. Either to gain them, or to keep them.

They aren’t seeing the objectives; just the methods.

It also appears they are completely unable to grasp the concept of Anonymous as being a non-hierarchical, anarchistic entity. Instead they are still looking for the “leaders”, as is illustrated by the Guardian article I mentioned earlier. They fail to see there simply are no leaders behind Anonymous itself. The only “leaders” there are, are those that lead a specific operation or project. And even then, not all projects have leaders.

Newton: On November 17 I ran a Q&A with an OP spokesperson [http://www.p2pnet.net/story/45762] when I asked, “Is there any kind of formal, or informal, central council? If so, who ’sits’ on it and how are they nominated?”

“There is a small group who are comprised of original activists, along with a collection of botnet owners and service administrators (people who host the IRC/Website as well as those who moderate and manage/develop them)”, was the reply. “Other people participate in researching news articles and law constructions, while others — like me — are participating to write about these events/actions. A month later, “Inside Anonymous, the Guardian has found that the organisation is more hierarchical — with a hidden cabal of around a dozen highly skilled hackers co-ordinating attacks across the web”, said the newspaper [http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/16/wikileaks-anonymous-hierarchy-emerges].

Do you believe there’s a secretive cabal organising things?

Joe: I think there is indeed some sort of organization here, although it is certainly not secretive, and no enforced authority takes place. As far as I know, the “organization” pretty much consists of whoever contributes to the project. The Q&A you mentioned already listed service administrators, and there are undoubtedly more people involved. However, I think the group of people organizing this may change at any moment. All this is just a guess, as I have no clue who is organizing things, and to be honest it isn’t important. As long as everyone participating keeps using common sense, and works towards the same goal, the organization is not important; it’s the action and the results that count.

Also, a very common misconception is that anyone involved with this matter is a “hacker”. The first pitfall there is that someone who breaks into systems isn’t actually a hacker, but a cracker. The second problem with that idea is that the people who are behind the organization of, for example, a DDoS attack, do not need any technical skills to do so. Communication skills are way more important here.

Newton: For the first time in history, people aren’t only making more and more choices, they’re making their choices stick, I say here – http://www.p2pnet.net/story/46415. Would you agree?

Joe: I think this is not the first time this happens. There have been many revolutions in the past, and some of these choices have stuck. Only this time, there’s the internet; a global communication mechanism that enables people around the world to communicate in real-time, even those in censored countries like China. The internet enables people around the world to see the bigger picture, and make choices on a larger scale. A “global revolution” is really possible now. It’s not just one right we fight for now, it’s humanity as a whole, the entire spectrum of rights. This entire affair with Wikileaks and Julian Assange isn’t the cause for this massive change you can see on a global scale, it’s just a catalyst. While even ‘civilized Western countries’ are starting to look more and more like police states (camera surveillance, central databases of biometric data, arresting protestants through the use of police provocation, etc.), the “resistance” amongst people is growing as well. At one point, as we’ve seen in for example Greece, it just blows up. And I believe that’s a good thing, as it reminds those in power why they were supposed to have power.

As someone (I can’t recall who) said, “governments should be afraid of their people, not the other way around”.

Newton: Right now the site seems mainly to comprise posts from people submitting their ideas. Will it eventually have news, article and commentary posts?

Joe: The aim of AnonNews is to be completely independent and uncensored (although not unmoderated), and not taking any sides. While it’s clear from the above questions that I very much agree with the direction Anonymous is currently going in, a press release speaking out negatively about these actions won’t ever be censored, as can be seen from the Operation TrollFox press release. As long as something is done under the banner of Anonymous (and in the case of press releases, has acceptable grammar), it can be posted to AnonNews. An idea is already floating around to have a “writing” section that will contain theory, news, and other written pieces from Anons, but this will only be implemented when the main platform is completely stable and working. All content on AnonNews will always be user-submitted. In some cases, people already write up analyses or critical posts regarding submitted content, and place these in the comments section.

In short: there are no plans to have any kind of editorial staff on the site, anyone can submit content. If there’s enough demand for a certain feature, it will appear. In fact, Indymedia (at least the Dutch version, I’m not sure about the rest) is a very good example of what I’d like AnonNews to be: just an open platform, and nothing else.

Newton: Do you believe the Anon and OP projects are temporary, or that they’re here to stay?

Joe: While Operation Payback is a project with a certain goal and purpose, and will cease to exist as soon as that goal is reached, Anonymous will never disappear. Anonymous is not a “new” movement. It’s simply a new name for freedom fighters, who in this case use the internet to communicate and collaborate. Freedom fighters have always existed, will always exist, and should always exist, be it under the name Anonymous or something else. Anonymous as a name may cease to be used but the “movement” will never die.

Newton: Back to AnonNews itself, what kind of script do you use?

Joe: Quite a few people have been asking that. I’m not using a script though, everything is self-programmed, as it should be for any serious website. It’s pretty much made to be as light-weight as possible, and even with thousands of visitors a day the server load is almost zero. It should run on pretty much any device. Also, for those interested, an XML feed is available (http://anonnews.org/xml.php) and an RSS feed will soon be added.

Hopefully,  this interview is still  relevant.

Meanwhile,  here’s a post from Alex on Anon News:

“While Israel is launching missiles at Palestine, the country’s own cyberspace is under heavy fire. Hacktivists from all over the world are attacking Israeli websites, but Anonymous members highlight the fact that they don’t support violence.

“Anonymous has released a second statement for OpIsrael after a number of pro-Israel publications have accused the hackers of being terrorists that promote the use of violence.

“Let us once again be perfectly clear: Anonymous does not in any way support the use of violence. Anonymous is a world wide collective of individuals whose means pursue human rights, justice, and universal equality for the citizens of every nation,” Anonymous representatives explained.

“They emphasize the fact that their involvement through OpIsrael is an attempt to stop the oppression against the people of Palestine.

“What is happening in Palestine is oppression. They have no navy, no army, or air force. There is no war in Gaza. There is only the continuous application of military force by Israel in an attempt to push every last person out of the Palestinian state, despite international laws that make these efforts illegal,” they added.

“The hacktivists claim they have never used anti-Semitic language during their campaign, their main goal being to protect the rights of the Palestinian people.

“Both Palestinians and Israelis need to find common ground and end the violence that has already resulted in the deaths of innocent people, including children. Israel’s advancement on Palestinian Territories and the racist oppression of Palestinian people needs to end. We are not terrorists,” they said.

“Governments that fund wars, practice deceit against their own citizens, condone corruption, and turn a blind eye to the deaths of innocent people are terrorists. The word terror does not belong to Israel or the United States. We will judge you by your actions.”

Jon Newton — myblogdammit

Follow me on Twitter @jonnewton8, and/ or identi.ca

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First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win ~ Mahatma Gandhi …