They call themselves Anonymous - an international group of hackers and activists who produce videos on-line where a person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask speaks with a distorted voice - giving a dire warning to a government entity or corporation.
Author and expert on the mysterious group, Gabriella Coleman, explores the intersection of cultures, hacking and politics in her book The Many Faces Of Anonymous. She'll present a lecture on the infamous group Thursday, January 25, at the James A. Little Theater in Santa Fe. She spoke with KUNM's Chris Boros.
KUNM: Let's start simple. What is Anonymous, who are they and what is their goal?
Coleman: Anonymous is currently a name that different groups of people located in very different parts of the world, from Australia to Malaysia to the United States, they use this name to coordinate different forms of collective action often digitally based protests. And then, in terms to the who, that's a tough one, because they're anonymous, right? They cloak themselves. We can answer that a little bit because some people have been arrested, because some people have used the name to do illegal activity and those people are computer hackers. But again a little bit hard to answer because we often don't know who's participating because they're anonymous.
KUNM: So what are they protesting?
Coleman: Initially when the name started to be used for political activity, it tended to be used by geeky internet types who were fighting for piracy, supporting Wikileaks, but then starting in 2001 the name started to be used for all sorts of political purposes. And subsequent to that time it's been used for hundreds of different causes from fighting police brutality to fighting rape culture.
KUNM: I think most people have seen one of these Anonymous videos but can you describe a typical video for us?
Coleman: Often times there is a person with a mask on and the mask is a Guy Fawkes mask and they might be sitting at a table and they're making a kind of announcement about the operation.
KUNM: It seems to me like a lot of this isn't orchestrated. Can anyone wear one of these masks and make an Anonymous video?
Coleman: That's absolutely right, and because of that, there's a lot of dynamism and flexibility and mutability and metamorphosis. And while some operations, especially some of the smaller ones with teams of hackers, really have to organize if you're going to infiltrate a computer system. Because so many people could just take the name when it meant that there wasn't necessarily consistency across operations and a lot of operations emerged spontaneously as well.
KUNM: So there's no leader. There's no president of Anonymous International?
Coleman: No. Not yet.
KUNM: What's next for Anonymous. Do you think they have any real power?
Coleman: Their power in the North American context has diminished considerably and this has to do in part with a lot of arrests that happened in 2011-2012. But in other parts of the world, like Spain for example, there's quite a bit of activity. And I think what's interesting about them is whether in five years the banner will be used again in a forceful way? think that is possible. Or maybe the run they had between 2010 and 2015 in the English speaking world was the bulk of their run and it will be more or less a relic of the past.