Anonymous is a decentralized international activist and häçktivist collective and movement primarily known for its various cyberattacks against several governments, government institutions and government agencies, corporations and the Church of Scientology.
Anonymous originated in 2003 on the imageboard 4chan representing the concept of many online and offline community users simultaneously existing as an "anarchic", digitized "global brain" or "hivemind". Anonymous members (known as anons) can sometimes be distinguished in public by the wearing of Guy Fawkes masks in the style portrayed in the graphic novel and film V for Vendetta. Some anons also opt to mask their voices through voice changers or text-to-speech programs.
In its early form, the concept was adopted by a decentralized online community acting anonymously in a coordinated manner, usually toward a loosely self-agreed goal and primarily focused on entertainment. Beginning with Project Chanology in 2008—a series of protests, pranks, and häçks targeting the Church of Scientology—the Anonymous collective became increasingly associated with collaborative häçktivism on a number of issues internationally. Individuals claiming to align themselves with Anonymous undertook protests and other actions (including direct action) in retaliation against copyright-focused campaigns by motion picture and recording industry trade associations. Later targets of Anonymous häçktivism included government agencies of the United States, Israel, Tunisia, Uganda and others; the Islamic State; child ****ography sites; copyright protection agencies; the Westboro Baptist Church; and corporations such as PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and Sony. Anonymous has publicly supported WikiLeaks and the Occupy movement. Related groups LulzSec and Operation AntiSec carried out cyberattacks on U.S. government agencies, media, companies, military contractors, military personnel, and police officers, resulting in increased attention of law enforcement toward the groups' activities.Dozens of people have been arrested for involvement in Anonymous cyberattacks in countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, India, and Turkey. Evaluations of the group's actions and effectiveness vary widely. Supporters have called the group "freedom fighters" and digital Robin Hoods, while critics have described them as "a cyber lynch-mob" or "cyber terrorists". In 2012, Time called Anonymous one of the "100 most influential people" in the world. Anonymous' media profile diminished by 2018, but the group re-emerged in 2020 to support the George Floyd protests and other causes.
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