Anonymous

guy fawkes mask

Anonymous is an Internet meme that originated in 2003 on the imageboard 4chan, representing the concept of many online community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global hive mind. It is also generally considered to be a blanket term for members of certain Internet subcultures, a way to refer to the actions of people in an environment where their actual identities are not known.

In its early form, the concept has been 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 2008, the Anonymous collective has become increasingly associated with collaborative, international hacktivism, undertaking protests and other actions, often with the goal of promoting internet freedom and freedom of speech. Actions credited to ‘Anonymous’ are undertaken by unidentified individuals who apply the Anonymous label to themselves as attribution.

Although not necessarily tied to a single online entity, many websites are strongly associated with Anonymous. This includes notable imageboards such as 4chan, Futaba, their associated wikis, Encyclopædia Dramatica, and a number of forums and IRC channels. After a series of controversial, widely-publicized protests and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks by Anonymous in 2008, incidents linked to its cadre members have increased. The name Anonymous itself is inspired by the perceived anonymity under which users post images and comments on the Internet. Usage of the term Anonymous in the sense of a shared identity began on imageboards. A tag of Anonymous is assigned to visitors who leave comments without identifying the originator of the posted content. Users of imageboards sometimes jokingly acted as if Anonymous were a real person. As the popularity of imageboards increased, the idea of Anonymous as a collective of unnamed individuals became an internet meme.

Anonymous broadly represents the concept of any and all people as an unnamed collective. As a multiple-use name, individuals who share in the ‘Anonymous’ moniker also adopt a shared online identity, characterized as hedonistic and uninhibited. This is intended as a satirical, conscious adoption of the online disinhibition effect. ‘We [Anonymous] just happen to be a group of people on the internet who need — just kind of an outlet to do as we wish, that we wouldn’t be able to do in regular society. …That’s more or less the point of it. Do as you wish. … There’s a common phrase: ‘we are doing it for the lulz.”

Anonymous consists largely of users from multiple imageboards and Internet forums. In addition, several wikis and Internet Relay Chat networks are maintained to overcome the limitations of traditional imageboards. These modes of communication are the means by which Anonymous protesters participating in projects  communicate and organize upcoming protests. Anonymous has no leader or controlling party and relies on the collective power of its individual participants acting in such a way that the net effect benefits the group. ‘We have this agenda that we all agree on and we all coordinate and act, but all act independently toward it, without any want for recognition. We just want to get something that we feel is important done…’

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