The easiest fact about Anonymous to roll off the tongue is that it's not so easy to understand what the group is all about. The group is comprised of a super loosely connected network of anonymous Internet hacking activists — wow, that's a mouthful — who don't follow any one particular philosophy. What is a bit easier to understand, though, is what operations Anon has taken on and what those have meant for the citizens who choose not to don a Guy Fawkes mask. So here are seven ways Anonymous impacted America in 2015, because the group was as busy as ever this year attempting to out evil and generally seek justice.
The group started out in 2008 as an entity looking to delegitimize the Church of Scientology and, whoa, has Anonymous expanded from there. This year saw the hacktivist group make waves all around the globe, tackling entities like ISIS and going after more abstract issues like racial injustice and a flawed criminal justice system in the U.S. And despite the ambiguity surrounding the group and its members, it's clear that what Anonymous does matters, for citizens and, more so, for those who become targets of Anons' infamous hacking skills.
1. They Reminded Americans That The KKK Still Exists
On the anniversary of citizen protests in Ferguson, Missouri, Anonymous announced the group would release the names of 1,000 Ku Klux Klan members, for an operation known as #OpKKK. The group eventually released a few hundred names, many of which were accessible to the general public, but its efforts to remind Americans of persisting white supremacist attitudes did not go unnoticed.
2. They Responded Fast And Furiously To The Attack On Charlie Hebdo
With #OpCharlieHebdo, Anonymous vowed to erase the online presence of both ISIS and al Qaeda. Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous claimed responsibility for taking down more than 5,000 ISIS-related social media accounts, but the group didn't stop there. Anonymous also released identifying information of alleged ISIS recruiters.
3. The Group Promised To Prove That Making A Murderer Subject Steven Avery Is Innocent
Individuals believed to be members of Anonymous have been claiming on Twitter that they have access to evidence that proves the innocence of Steven Avery, the subject of Netflix's Making a Murderer docuseries. The information is allegedly in the form of phone records between law enforcement officials, though the activists have yet to unleash the alleged trove.
4. The GhostSec Group Was Born, Which Went After ISIS With Ferocity
GhostSec, which began as an Anon offshoot, set out with the more narrow goal of eliminating the online presence of all Islamic extremist groups, including ISIS, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, and al Qaeda. Without Anon, there likely wouldn't be a cyber hacking group entirely dedicated to terrorist groups that rely on online communications.
5. The Group Warned Americans Of Potential Attacks At Home And Abroad
Following the series of ISIS-related attacks in Paris in November, Anonymous-related accounts shared information of additional terror attacks planned for Paris, as well as an attack scheduled to take place at a WWE event in Atlanta. Though Anonymous later posted a tweet stating the group did not spread any rumors of possible attacks, the FBI took the information seriously and reached out to law enforcement partners in Atlanta.
6. Anon Turned ISIS Members Into Silly Rubber Duckies
The group christened Dec. 11 as ISIS #TrollingDay, generating memes on memes that showcased ISIS members with photoshopped rubber ducky heads. While not everyone may support turning one's fears into targets for humor, you can't argue the event didn't have an impact, since no one disliked the idea more than ISIS itself.
7. They Kept Americans Believing That Hacktivism Can Make A Difference
Even if you think Anonymous is not what it once was, the group has been a catalyst for scores of other cyber hacktivist groups to pop up around the globe. And the idea that Anons can accomplish a whole lot with a computer is still very much present.