Sunday, October 7, 2012

Anonymous: Evolution from Pastime to Protest

I'm here to do a review of the recent 2012 movie, "We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists", as well as give my opinions and observations of the widespread Internet 'legion' known as Anonymous.

Ever since the Cyber Crime / Online Libel had been implemented in the Philippines, it was only then that Anonymous was brought up to mainstream media. And the same thing goes for every government around the world that tried to 'take away the internet' through various forms of censorship, leaving freedom of speech only for the rich and famous.

 

The film gives us the history of how hacker groups and Internet people went up to become Anonymous - specifically on the historical website called 4chan, where people can post as 'Anonymous' to keep their identity safe and still post anything as a part of freedom of speech. In the movie, people involved (and formerly involved) with Anonymous were interviewed of their points of view as well as their trials and how they had to face the justice system of their government, which was often times not as fair as it seems.

In the whole, the movies opens up a mind of someone who thinks hackers are evil. In fact, they are just like Robin Hood - they don't always steal accounts or expose computer data for kicks; sometimes, they do it for a cause. When Anons see a person or an entire organization wanting to suppress freedom of expression (especially on the Internet), they make their trolls, attacks, and everything else until that entity is pissed off. You might see this as a form of cyber-bullying, but it's not. It's an entirely different way of sending an important message or opinion to someone who doesn't even care about how many people he or she have offended with censorship stuff.

The movie also points out that Anonymous started off as a joke, or more like a bunch of Internet trollers just having fun and poking at random and bizarre stuff. But since the legion was growing, they suddenly thought of bonding together and kicking some sense into those people who have numb hearts - those people who do not like being judged, but keep judging people. Those people who simply like keeping things in secret, especially dirty things that make them a notch above average people. Those people who like to profit over others and step on their freedom as a human being. 

Those people didn't last long enough against Anons.

On my side, though I'm not necessarily an Anon nor have I posted in 4chan, I have been around the Internet since around 2006 or 2007 so I basically know what those 4chan stuff are - those memes, trolls, and other widespread phenomenon, including nyan cats. Back then, the Internet itself was an untouchable - 'normal' society didn't know much about it, except for e-mails and websites, and of course, chat. There was no Facebook back then; only Friendster and MySpace. There was no Twitter or Gmail; there was only Yahoo! Messenger. Memes and the Anons weren't mainstream back then, and you can hardly find a person around your community who actually knows about Rickrolling, Pedobear or Lolcats.

But that was before. Sadly, times have changed and the Internet can no longer be trusted as before.

Back then, people were able to post their hidden feelings on Friendster or have a chat on YM and because hardly no one is a frequent 'netizen', your opinions remain safe. However, as the Internet became more open and governments as well as businesses became smarter and more high-tech, information became more available than before. Thousands of employees get fired for libelous Facebook posts. Millions of people everyday bash celebrities on Twitter, which was not possible back then. I mean, in the old days, there was a gap between celebs and their fans, and now the gap is starting to narrow down. 

I recall a scene in the 90's anime 'Serial Experiments Lain', where Lain Iwakura, the protagonist, is said to be the key of merging The Wired (The Internet) and the Real World together, but many of her peers advise her not to do so, because it can be dangerous. In the end, the group of hackers known as the Knights were eventually crushed by Lain exposing their identity to the Internet. The members of this group all eventually committed suicide at the same time, in all parts of the world.

Maybe this anime is like a vision of the future - where the Internet will be eventually the Real World itself. It sounds really sad for me because I think that the Internet and all of its user-generated content wasn't really meant for bad things - it's just that many evil minds were taking advantage of it, such as other hacker groups who steal user accounts and bank accounts just for fun, not minding that they are offending other people. Same thing goes for online bashers, trollers, etc, who don't have respect. But in the case of trolling, it's two things: you do it for fun (not seriously) or you're doing it to offend people.

As for Anonymous getting mainstream attention (not only in the Philippines, but to the rest of the world), I feel sad but happy at the same time. Sad because many people will think of Internet users as criminals, bad people, and shameless people without morals. Those kind of people are the people who like to label things as 'this' and 'that', and are not researching. These people are calling a celebrity a whore only because of a single photo, but did not research if the photo was legitimate or the reason behind the photo. Those people are VERY close-minded, and that's what pisses me off most of the time.

However, I am also happy for them, because they are no longer hobbyists sipping coffee in front of their laptop or desktop - they are now screaming on the streets, gathering people for change, and standing up to what they believe in, despite the legal consequences. And I think that is a very noble thing to do, especially if you are standing up to freedom of speech.

As I've mentioned in my previous entries, everyone can have an opinion, as long as they don't offend others. Offense only comes in as a last result; for hard-headed people who would not listen and continue to empower themselves and become filthy rich. Other than that, the Internet and the real world, though quite different, are one in a sense that freedom of speech and information should not only be allowed, but also filtered well. As said in the movie, the Internet isn't how much you own fancy cars or thousands of residential areas - it's about how smart you can comment on a Facebook post, YouTube video or anything else on the World Wide Web. 

So remember kids, teens, and others who think all hackers are evil - think again. Not all snakes are poisonous. Not all politicians and celebrities are fame whores. Not all mainstream musicians are bland-sounding. Remember: it's not about whether you're a Roman Catholic, an Atheist, a conservative person, a liberal person, or anything else. It's all about what you do for others and how you help make a good change and take a stand for what you believe is right.

And...expect us to be with you.

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