Tuesday, January 04, 2011

"Anonymous": Organizing Collective Action and Coercive Power Beyond the State

Traditionally, it is commonly assumed that an institutionalized organization is necessary for the organization and deployment of collective power.  When organized in the form of a political state, such power is assumed to be at its greatest, including the legitimate use of organized violence for the attainment of political ends.  In the absence of organization, the deployment of power, especially against well organized states, was considered sub-optimal.   People, individually, and mass movements of people, were assumed to act legitimately only by acting upon or through the state within the frameworks of whatever institutionalized apparatus was constructed for them from out of either the consent of their fore bearers or on the basis of some legitimating  foundation-ideology. Legitimate individual political action, or mass mobilization, could not be effectuated outside the state or its authorized institutionalized frameworks (non-governmental organizations, corporations, supra-national entities--all nice and tidy and constructed in imitation of the state apparatus to political effect), in form or function.

But times change, and that change has been accelerated by the changing context in which  human communities have been coming to organize their activities outside the state.  The rise of al-Qaeda and other non-governmental communities has provided evidence that the apparatus and legitimacy framework of a state is unnecessary for the organization and deployment of power--even military power. See, e.g., Miles Kahler, "Collective Action and Clandestine Networks:  The Case of al Qaeda," in Networked Politics: Agency, Power, and Governance (Miles Kahler, ed.) Cornell University Press, 2009.

But globalization has permitted the successful growth not merely of non-governmental organizations structured in a way that mimics the state, but of other forms of organization that express temporal and objectives related aggregations of individual will for collective action.  These temporary but powerful aggregations of action are organized around fidelity to ideologies that serve as the foundation for action.   The power of these amalgamations and their effectiveness in actions against other non-state actors, and even states, has been recently evidenced in the reaction to the concerted activities against Julien Assage and his efforts to disclose secret information obtained principally by those who work against the interests of the United States and its allies.

Among the most interesting forms of coercive action collectives that have emerged from the Assange affair has been a collective (I do not call them a group) that styles itself "Anonymous."   

Anonymous is not an organization. There are no official members, guidelines, leaders, representatives or unifying principles. Rather, Anonymous is a word that identifies the millions of people, groups, and individuals on and off of the internet who, without disclosing their identities, express diverse opinions on many topics. To be Anonymous does not imply thinking or acting in concert with others who are Anonymous; rather, it describes a way of communicating and promoting social change. . . . We continue to believe that diverse individuals who share common ideals can progress beyond the temporary satisfaction of retaliation and toward efficient, targeted and sustained activism. Together, we can shed a beacon of hope that will illuminate our defense of freedom and our consciousness of shared humanity. (Why We Protest).
So begins the self-description of a collective that exhibits some of the more transformative power of globalization when combined with the political culture of mass democracy and the politics of mass mobilization framed around ideology. These are the very structures and tools that have been successfully deployed by the state in the construction of both the social state of the 20th century and the framework for supra-national economic ordering of globalization. Cf. Edward Hallett Carr, Nationalism and After (London: MacMillan, 1945).  It has served as a template for large non-state actors for the management of the masses. 

Kim Jong Il is Healthy (well, at least, on canvas), Where the Hell Am I, Sept. 30, 2008 (quoting David Heather: "As important tools in the mobilization of the masses, posters have to have an instantaneous impact on the viewers' understanding and their desire to act upon this understanding. Their message has to be accessible, clear and direct; informative and explanatory, as well as exhortative. The link between contemplation and action is crucial.").

This "functional internationalism"  was once viewed as utopian in the absence of  an organized power guaranteeing it operation.  ""It must, however be admitted that this idealistic view of a functional internationalism, based on the conception of international order as association not between nations as such but between people and groups of different nations, and realized through an indefinite number of organizations cutting across national divisions and exercising authority for specific and limited purposes over individuals and functional groups, would be utopian if it failed to take into account  from the outset of the unresolved issue of power." (Carr, supra at 50-51).  But this framework is precisely the sort that has served as a conceptual foundation for transnational organization and governance among public and non-state actors, traditionally organized.  See, e.g., Gunher Teubner, Global Law Without a State (Darthmouth: Aldershot, 1997); Gralf-Peter Calliess and Peer Zumbasen, Rough Consensus and Running Code:  A Theory of Transnational Private Law (Oxford University Press, 2010). See also Larry Catá Backer, Governance Without Government: An Overview and Application of Interactions Between Law-State and Governance-Corporate Systems (March 1, 2010). Penn State Legal Studies Research 10-2010. One wonders whether, in the form of Anonymous, we are discovering now that it can, as easily be used by mass collectives against the state. 

Thus, Anonymous describes itself as
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. (More About Anonymous).
It serves as a limiting form of mass organization--positing an equality among individuals, it frames action around ideology and the mobilization of responses to  ideological challenges.  It accomplishes this through the aggregation of the actions of individuals coordinating, in an uncoordinated way, responses to ideological challenges and framing objectives in precise and very narrow  ways.
Anonymous is comprised of people from all walks of life and has no rigid hierarchy or leadership. Our organization is accomplished entirely through the voluntary action and collaboration of individuals, many of whom do not know each other directly. . . . 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. (More About Anonymous).
Christina Grammatikopoulou, On Becoming A Hacker: A new political and cultural practice, Interartive.

Thus mobilized, this aggregation of individual, this mass democratic movement unmanaged by the state or the apparatus of other state or non-state actors, will seek to act in concert to achieve an objective understood as advancing the imperatives of the jointly embraced ideologies around which mass mobilization is centered.
The FBI has seized a server in Texas as part of its hunt for the groups behind the pro-WikiLeaks denial-of-service attacks launched in December against PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, and others, according to a report. . . .Anonymous has claimed responsibility for deluging the Web sites of PayPal and others with data in order to bring the sites down. The attacks, the group says, were a response to actions taken by the site holders against WikiLeaks, after WikiLeaks publicly released a slew of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables. PayPal, MasterCard, and Visa all decided to prevent WikiLeaks from collecting donations via their financial networks. 4Chan has said it was behind an attack to shut down the sites for Swiss bank PostFinance and lawyers in Sweden prosecuting sex allegations against WikiLeaks front man Julian Assange.  Report: FBI seizes server in probe of WikiLeaks attacks, CNet News, Jan. 1, 2011.
And it has attacked the state apparatus itself.  See, David Smith, Anonymous hackers target Zimbabwe government over WikiLeaks, The Guardian (U.K.), Dec.31, 2010. Anonymous activists target Tunisian government sites, BBC News Online, Jan. 4, 2011 ("Sites belonging to the Ministry of Industry and the Tunisian Stock Exchange were amongst seven targeted by the Anonymous group since Monday. Other sites have been defaced for what the group calls "an outrageous level of censorship" in the country. . . . In an open letter published online, Anonymous said that it had launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to highlight a spate of recent riots that have taken place over youth unemployment in the country as well as net and press censorship." Id.).
Anonymous thus presents a new form of institutionalized governance that appears to embody in a new form the consequences of the movement toward mass democracy a century in the making.  It represents disorganized organization, a potential state always at the ready, that becomes whole for brief periods and against specific objectives.  It is governance without either government or apparatus (institution).  It is activated by the processing of judgments that derive from its monitoring.  Anonymous suggests Foucault's gaze turned outward.  The inmates of the Panopticon do not merely monitor inward (themselves), they monitor outward as well (the people and institutional structures around them). Now better understood through the less threatening language of "transparency", the (self) governance effects can be profound.  Cf., Matt Hannah, "Imperfect Panopticism: Envisioning the Construction of Normal Lives," in Space and Social Theory:  Interpreting Modernity and Postmodernity 344 (Georges Benko & Ulf Strohmeyer, eds., Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).  There is a sense of this in the pivotal role that non-governmental organizations already play int he construction and maintenance of non-state governance regimes.  See, Larry Catá Backer, From Moral Obligation to International Law: Disclosure Systems, Markets and the Regulation of Multinational Corporations. Georgetown Journal of International Law, Vol. 39, 2008. 

Its form is discerned by the strong framework provided through a shared set of beliefs.  This is not a singular ideological frame, but a cluster of sub-frames.  Anonymous embraces  a core ideology with a large number of more specifically applicable sub-ideologies (or consequerntialist ideologies). These ideologies are consequentialist in the sense that they provide the means for measuring the actions of others and for assessing the legitimacy and possibility objective for which of mass mobilization is necessary and the collective aroused. Yet its strength, in shared ideology, may also prove its weak point.  Ideology might roam freely through mass movement communities.  But it is also something to which many contribute.  One can expect that if ideology triggers mobilization and determines both its character and objectives, the power to move ideology, even a little bit, would be quite important.  See generally, Pierre  Bourdieu, "The Market of Symbolic Goods," in The Field of Cultural Production 112-141(Randall Johnson, ed., New York:  Columbia University Press,  1993).  But, even within a more conventional multi-institutional transnational context, that is a project shared by many with diverse and antagonistic positions.   See,  Larry Catá Backer, Economic Globalization and the Rise of Efficient Systems of Global Private Lawmaking: Wal-Mart as Global Legislator. University of Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 4, 2007.

As the actualization, at least in very early form, of what may be a new form of non-state actor with governance power (and certainly with the ability to project power against other non-state actors and even against states) the constellation of mass mobilization known as "Anonymous" is worth considering.  That cross border mass mobilization is possible, and can be made effective against state and non-state actors, that such mobilizations can be harassed through the articulation of praxis oriented application of commonly embraced ideology that are substantially similar to those that support the legitimacy of state action, suggests the power of this form of governance organization, its strengths and weaknesses.  Like spiderweb, it is easy to pierce when considered from the perspective of the conventional organization of governance units.  But like spider web it can be quite strong when invoked for the limited and transitory objectives for which mobilization based action is organized. Though the current interactions between this aggregation and states over the Wikileaks disclosures will likely be managed away, the form of this framework for governance will not.

One of my students, Robert Marriott, has undertaken some research on Anonymous. He has agreed to share an essay reflecting his work, which is reproduced below. The essay follows:
The Problems and Perspectives of Anonymous as a criminal entity
Robert Marriott

Several hosting and payment company websites were recently attacked by the internet group Anonymous under the banner of “Operation Payback”, an attempt to show solidarity and lend support to Julian Assange and Wikileaks in light of Assange’s recent arrest and the substantial part of the media which has cast the site’s recent activities in a derogatory light. Each of these sites had responded to soft pressure and requests from US Government officials to stop supporting Wikileaks. Although the attacks did temporarily shut down some sites and brought about policy reversals in a couple of cases, they generally did not cause substantial damage, and did lead Assange to publicly distance himself from Anonymous and its tactics. Anonymous is now working to disseminate the diplomatic cables Wikileaks has released as widely across the web as possible, usually by legal if not entirely orthodox means. The capacity of Anonymous and similar organizations to commit legal acts of protest, and criminal acts poses novel and substantial challenges to effective governance on an international scale. This essay will focus upon the history and development of Anonymous as a decentralized group, the merits and demerits of arguments describing Project Payback as a valid of civil protest, and the effectiveness of different responses to Anonymous by government agents seeking to reduce their potential impact.

Anonymous originated among the users of an imageboard (a BBS that permits image posting) called 4chan. Individuals posting to 4chan are not identified unless they choose to give themselves a nickname- hence, “anonymous”. Even before the emergence of Anonymous as a broader entity, ideas and figures of speech from 4chan would frequently find their way into broader internet culture, and conversation on the board could, in a matter of minutes, use and discard a large number of topics in a complex interplay of a variety of memes and in-jokes. Among the sections of the website, the most infamous was /b/, the Random board. This section is almost completely unmoderated, and became known as a place where the most profane and uncensored sort of discussion could take place, involving depraved conversation topics and the use of graphic “shock” images to troll other users and attract attention to the original poster. To give an example, it was not until after several years of community infighting and external legal pressure that images of child pornography were universally banned from the site. This ban, and other internal disputes, would also lead to the creation of a large number of similar imageboards that catered to 4chan users who also had other interests, or simply to create a parallel community. Individuals who used any of these boards can be seen as the first members of Anonymous. This definition still holds: individuals who use the boards are Anonymous, despite no affiliation with cyberattacks or criminal activity. The fact that many Anonymous members do nothing illegal and are involved in no protest movements can make discussing the criminal acts of some members of Anonymous difficult; from this point forward the reader may assume that Anonymous refers only to those members of the group whom are either involved in some form of illegal activity as part of the group, or are members of one of its protest movements, or both.

The first raids by members of Anonymous were carried out against websites that were seen as wronging the 4chan community in some way, such as by stealing content generated by users, or against individuals whom posters on /b/ found offensive, such as an individuals who posted footage of cruelty to animals. A “raid” could employ any number of methods, including locating and publicizing a target’s personal contact information, reporting the target to the authorities for real or fabricated offenses, or cyberattacks that seek to disable the target’s activities online. Although these early raids were partially retributive in nature, another major motivation was “lulz”, a variation of LOL meant to indicate a sort of schadenfreude. A frequent justification for a raid or other attack came to be that it was done “for the lulz”, alongside any other moral gloss that the situation provided. At no time did these attacks represent any consistent moral or social system of norms by the community; rather, they were acts of opportunity by individuals who felt protected by their anonymity online, and empowered by the society they had found in their community. Targets were selected largely based upon popular consensus, which varied intensely; if Anonymous attacked a man in Nebraska for setting his cat on fire one week, the next they might ignore or take amusement in posted videos of similar animal torture from another source. For years, these attacks occurred with only sporadic media coverage. Generally, it appeared to be understood that publicity was counterproductive- when members of the media reported on Anonymous, it tended to attract new users to the board, and members of the group reveled in the mistakes members of the press made in describing the group. 
 "Hate"--An example of Anonymous recontextualizing early media coverage- "internet hate machine," a memetic name for the group, is a quote from a sensationalistic FOX report on an early attack.
 The first well-publicized raids by Anonymous, known as Project Chanology, consisted of a series of cyber-attacks and, eventually, real-life protests against the Church of Scientology. These attacks were noticed by other individuals and groups involved in protesting Scientologists, who contacted and attached themselves to the 4chan attackers. The publicity of the protests, and the misdeeds by Church of Scientology officials that prompted them, led to a massive influx of new members of Anonymous, many of whom had no knowledge of the amoral culture and inconsistent behaviors of the prior community. This growth in structure and purpose also brought with it new websites, designed to organize members of Anonymous to protests and raids, as well as to manage the publicity the group was beginning to gain. These websites were often completely different from the imageboards such as 4chan, including some that required registration and providing a username. The new structure for Project Chanology was not centrally organized, and frequently members would conflict on the proper course of action. Project Chanology sites and protests continue to occur, but the activities are now rarely covered by the media, and many members of Anonymous view the conflict with the Church of Scientology as an embarrassment that was co-opted entirely by individuals from outside the group. 
 "Chanology protest”- During the protests against Scientology, many Anonymous protesters wore Guy Fawkes masks, in response to a prior mem

The result of this blossoming infrastructure and massive influx of new, inexperienced members was in many respects, predictable. Opinion split among the members of the group about the nature and reasons for the Project Chanology raids, and different groups began to justify the involvement of Anonymous in public issues in different ways. Each of these groups has no stable or identifiable membership, and each of which still perceives the broader whole as Anonymous. I will here assign names to these different factions, with the understanding that membership in any one is not exclusive, and that these distinctions are being applied in part externally.

Some members of the /b/ board who predated the Scientology protests viewed the entire exercise as a means of trolling Scientology, or generally having a good old amoral time. Sometimes calling themselves Old Anonymous, these members find the moral claims and earnest statements by other Anonymous members ridiculous or impractical, and are less likely to participate in large-scale, political attacks like Project Payback. Old Anonymous generally would rather participate in pranks which make no claim to do public good, like Operation Lemonparty, which sought to direct unsuspecting members of the public to navigate to a website displaying a shock image, under the pretense that it was the site of a new, popular political party.

Moralists, or “Moralfags”, as they are called by some members of the Old Anonymous, participate in raids or protests because they are genuinely motivated by the cause at issue. Over time, and particularly in the context of Wikileaks, these protestors have come to count among their members fairly sophisticated hackers with old-school, antiauthoritarian beliefs, similar to the earlier Phreaking generation.

The Epic Fail Guys(EFG) are a strong example of the amorphous and sometimes creative nature of Anonymous as a whole. EFG members join protests such as Project Chanology, and claim similar beliefs to Moralist members of Anonymous, but are in truth doing it “for the lulz”; EFG members view picketing and other protests as useless, and rather seek to troll all sides of the issue by peppering their moral arguments with logical fallacies or by otherwise undercutting the legitimacy of the raid as a whole.

These are just some distinctions that can be made among the members of Anonymous as it exists today; this is just intended to illustrate one major controversy in the group. As Anonymous has splintered by motive, so too has its means. Although 4chan-style imageboards remain popular, coordination for raids tends to occur in more secure environments, such as IRC chatrooms and the freenet distributed data storage system. Other sites also serve as repositories for information and techniques for raiding, and frequently, other illegal activities. Such sites are not usually on any directory, and instead must be ferretted out by following links from one Anonymous internet location to another. Two sites located in preparation for this article will serve as examples:

There are several wikis set up to introduce new Anonymous members to raiding tactics and induct them into the supporters of particular raids. A page on one of these wikis contains instructions on how to use basic services like directory assistance and Facebook to find a target’s personal information, and then provides websites which can be used to sign the target up for services, or harass them by sending them free condoms and sexual lubricant, or to direct prostitutes or the police to the target’s residence without retribution. The same site also provides information on how to steal premium access to direct download websites and other rudimentary hacks. The site also provides a very skewed history of recent raids, with most pages updated in 2007. Because even one wiki site requires a large, independently motivated userbase to remain accurate, most Anonymous wikis are out of date and semifunctional at best.

A subdirectory on another fairly prominent, very recently created Anonymous site is simply titled “/Library/.” This file directory contains a large number of books in pdf and txt file formats, on a large variety of subjects- but primarily instructional manuals for various sorts of criminal activity, including hacking, bomb construction and drug fabrication. Putting aside the legality of pirating these documents, the hacking tools found on the site and similar analogues elsewhere are a mix of legally grey software ostensibly or legitimately designed for testing servers, and hacking tools written specifically for stronger criminal attacks.

”Dangerous Kitten”- The “Dangerous Kitten" package of hacker and DDoS tools(including LOIC) has been used by many members of Anonymous since their early attacks. It gained this name because the package, a rar compressed file, was initially disguised as a jpeg image similar to the one above. 

Among the tools used to actually carry out Anonymous raids, the most popular is the Low Orbit Ion Cannon(LOIC). Named after a science fiction weapon, is a client tool which allows the user to “volunteer” their computer for a DDoS attack. Unlike normal DDoS attacks, which tend to use bot-infected computers to apply pressure to the target site, LOIC users have the chance to remove themselves from a given attack. Despite this, some member of the group must coordinate the attack and “pull the trigger”. For this reason, attacks such as Project Payback often have self-appointed high-tier Anonymous leaders, who work together as a community to prepare and communicate the plans for the strike. These leadership structures are temporary and vary in structure from raid to raid. One thing is almost always consistent, however- Anonymous leaders take substantial risks in coordinating any sort of activity, even legal protests. If the leader makes choices that are unpopular with the group, they risk becoming the target of especially strong retribution. Despite this risk, leaders can usually be found if there is demand for a given attack, simply because such leaders are often the same ones who make the attack possible

Therefore, although Anonymous may be amorphous as a rule, it will tend to organize itself into a similar hierarchical structure whenever part of the group mobilizes for a raid: several leaders, communicating privately to generate media to publicize and execute the attack, and the seething mass of Anonymous below to provide the necessary firepower for execution. Two years ago, I wrote an essay comparing Anonymous to the horde as described in Deleuze and Guattari’s anti-oedipus, as completely without form or consistent morality. While it is possible that this was true during the early stages of the group, this dependence on highly skilled technicians to coordinate attack has diminished this quality in the group- if anything its structure now more closely resembles a cell network, with a very rapid turnover among individual members.

Anonymous is, at a fundamental level, unlike other internet subcultures. Over the course of the past 10 years, I have observed a number of different group dynamics online, ranging from large fringe organizations such as the white nationalist movement at stormfront.org to small, inoffensive groups like the independent videogame modding enthusiasts at KZMOD.com. All of these other organizations, regardless of their often complicated and muddled social structures and histories, generally have a clear sense of self-identity. Although different justification for racialist or racist doctrines may exist at stormfront(when I was watching the site these disputes, over the religious or other origins of “whiteness”, dominated the forums), members know why they are there and can if necessary locate and learn about the past and present events in the history of the community. Anonymous lacks internal records and consistency- the closest thing they have to an internal record of events is “encyclopedia Dramatica”, a parody of Wikipedia that is completely indecipherable without the endurance to process an almost Lovecraftian level of obscuring language. This inconsistency is what allows Anonymous its amorality, and more importantly it also makes it attractive to new members- whether you want to have fun, meet new friends, fight the power, or find out how to grow weed in your basement, Anonymous has something for you. This quality also makes it easier for outsiders to ascribe their own beliefs or qualities to the group.

Anonymous activities are seen by some civil libertarians and others on the left as a sort of “Hacktivism”- a legitimate form of civil protest. The Operation Payback attacks have also attracted the support of some of the same community that supports Assange- technophiles who see Anonymous actions as a means of freeing information and ideas from government control. In this light, Anonymous acts as a democratizing force, speaking truth to a power which is seeking to control and govern what should or must be free. While some members of Anonymous have compared themselves to civil rights protestors or Democrats of the Athenian sort, the most knowledgeable and tech-savvy members of the press and academy, many of whom have actually spent time directly communicating with members of Anonymous as they plan their attacks, view the group as something completely new, emerging from the capabilities and opportunities that arise from the structure of the internet, as a new and insatiable threat to the enemies of Truth and nemeses of various sorts, the viewer’s political preferences depending.

I personally disagree with this perception, because I feel that the phenomenon that is Anonymous is not without some precedent in the real world, indeed in the United States. Anonymous, in terms of its actions, is a group of individuals whom, using various means to hide their identities, perform criminal and noncriminal disruptive and occasionally violent acts in the name of upholding values that they ascribe as being essential to the broader community. An increasing number of group members appear to hold strong, sometimes irrational antiauthoritarian beliefs, and view actions by the federal government as part of an impending plan to limit their freedom. Although the organization is different in composition, methodology and goals, it resembles in some respects organizations like the KKK, in that the anonymity of individual members allows them to claim greater purpose while shielding themselves from a society that would be hostile if it knew the full extent of their ideology and attacks. Although the cyberattacks on Mastercard and Paypal have had some degree of success in terms of raising public awareness of the soft pressure that some federal officials have applied to these companies, they are doomed to failure because they lack the elements of public sympathy and broad media support that have made protest movements successful in the past. In this sense, the anonymity of members of the group works to their disadvantage. Members of Anonymous who genuinely believe in the causes they protest and raid for are using the wrong means to achieve their goals- and in this case, they may very well have overreached themselves.

As this article was being written on New Year’s Eve, 2010, the FBI and European equivalent agencies have begun raiding ISP server hosts and seizing machines used to perform the Operation Payback attacks. Several of the websites that were used to gather information for this essay have gone offline in the past 24 hours. The ensuing investigation, and any subsequent arrests and trials, will have a major influence on the composition and affiliations of Anonymous in the future, and will likely alter the way the group is perceived and they way they conduct themselves.

The worst course of action for those attempting to manage the effects of Anonymous and similar groups would be to arrest individual Anonymous members who used LOIC to aid the DDoS attacks. Such prosecutions would be difficult to win, and easily spun by members of the Anonymous community, who are skilled at spreading false information about their exploits, even among themselves. Most importantly, the high level of publicity these trials would garner would also lead to an increase in the membership of Anonymous, as press coverage exposes a larger proportion of the public to Anonymous in a context that humanizes individual members and makes the actions of Anonymous more sympathetic. A more successful tactic, and probably the likely outcome, is that the government will only pursue the highest levels of the Anonymous hierarchy that were involved in these particular attacks. By doing this, the government may drastically reduce the organization’s short-term ability to plan and execute raids, or continue to disseminate some hacking tools. It may also reduce the group’s popularity among some antiauthoritarian quarters, although there are no guarantees of such. What is certain, however, is that any current criminal case will not stop Anonymous completely; members of the group have been expecting this sort of response for years, and several different individuals and groups have already appeared online to propose and begin partial migration of Anonymous assets and sites to far less traceable internet architectures, such as the Freenet system and similar analogues. Because there are a sizeable number of highly literate hackers in Anonymous, and because the group self-educates at an alarming rate, it is difficult to imagine a governance policy that could effectively bring Anonymous raids to a complete halt. In order to do this, changes would have to be made to the fundamental structure of the internet itself, rendering individual users much more visible and with incredibly tight control on access, all to prevent the security free-for-all and the anonymity in numbers that the internet currently provides. If this were ever to occur, it would be the ultimate irony; in protesting to increase freedom of information and reduce authoritarian controls on communication, Anonymous would bring about a state of affairs that would effectively annul the very elements of the internet that made it possible for them to exist in the first place.


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