In a recent video posted on Anonymous' YouTube channel, the global "hacktivist" group explains why it believes Sandra Bland was murdered. The disguised computerized voice says, "The truth is, Sandra Bland was murdered, murdered by the same people that swore to defend and protect the citizens of the United States." If you don't already know, Anonymous is a loose collective of hackers who use their skills for activism. They hide behind their trademark Guy Fawkes mask: a wide-smiled, rosy cheeked, mustached face popularized by V for Vendetta in 2006. So, who is the leader of Anonymous and the person behind the mask?
No one really knows. Time and time again, the group has publicly declared that they are leaderless. In 2010, a 22-year-old Anon spokesperson, who identified himself as "Coldblood," told the Guardian that there is no central command structure. According to Coldblood, the group is comprised primarily of teenagers, as well as some parents and technology workers, who are "trying to make an impact on what happens with the limited knowledge they have." Similarly in 2013, Salon reported that Gregg Housh, formerly connected to the group, described Anonymous' leadership saying, "There is no leadership. There can't be. That is the point of it all."
In fact, the group is quite amorphous in the first place. Parmy Olson, Forbes journalist and author of We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency, characterized the hacktivist group in a 2012 interview saying, "It is a crowd of people, a nebulous crowd of people, working together and doing things together for various purposes."
Like the name suggest, they are anonymous, but maybe less so than it first appears. Some members' identities have been unveiled. Hector Xavier Monsegur, nicknamed Sabu, was arrested in 2011 and admitted involvement in hacking companies like MasterCard and PayPal. In 2013, Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to ten years in prison for his Anonymous hacking. Several other names have been made public, but the group remains true to their name: anonymous. While their identities are disguised, their actions are clear.
The group has hacked social media accounts associated with ISIS, taken a stand against the KKK, and attacked major credit card companies for not accepting Wikileaks donations. Canadian newspaper National Post reported that Anons recently hacked Canada's spy agency and leaked an alleged government document supposedly revealing information about the Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) on Monday. According to the National Post, Jeremy Laurin, a spokesman for Canada's Public Safety Minister, said Monday, "We do not comment on leaked documents and we continue to monitor this situation closely." In their classic style, they also released a video to the public threatening to release more hacked information if the Canadian government doesn't investigate the fatal shooting of Anonymous member James McIntrye, according to CBC News.
Most of the Anons' masks are on — and maybe they really don't have a leader — but Anonymous is still alive and hacking.
Images: Frédéric BISSON/Flickr