http://mashable.com/2013/01/26/anonymous-hack-government-website-declares-war/

http://www.zdnet.com/anonymous-re-hacks-us-sentencing-site-into-video-game-asteroids-7000010384/

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If you have been following the recent news in online happenings, you are most likely familiar with the hacktivist group, Anonymous.  They are a “Legion” as the group’s motto claims, fighting for constitutional justice and internet freedom primarily within the United States.  The group has incredible intelligence and their capabilities are even greater.  They have hacked into numerous corporation and organizational websites and social media, they leave threatening messages for any group that has been targeted by them with cryptic promises of oblivion if their demands are not met.  Many masses would agree that so far, their intentions have been just, and their actions non-threatening to the safety and security of Americans.  They claim to only utilize their abilities in times of true need for the greater good of all people.

Most recently on Friday Jan 25, the group Anonymous hacked into UCCIS.GOV, the site responsible for publishing the sentencing practices of the United States Justice Department with regard to crimes committed on American Soil.  This hack was a response to the untimely suicide of Aaron Swartz (26), co-founder of Reddit and Internet rights activist.  Swartz was facing prosecution for the alleged hacking of an MIT data base, and stealing documents published there with the intent to distribute them for free.  Prosecuting attorney Carmen Ortiz threatened Swartz with over 35 years in prison for a crime that typically, according to the law, results in months probation and eventual removing of any criminal record.  Swartz was was diagnosed with severe depression some time ago, and couldn’t face the thought of so many years in prison.  He committed suicide by hanging on January 15th.

Anonymous responded by replacing the UCCIS home page with green and black lines, along with a YouTube video exclaiming that “a line had been crossed” and that sentencing reform had to be made in order to ensure constitutional security.  The video can been seen by following the first link above.  Anonymous also claims to have stolen and distributed (similar to Swartz) documents containing sensitive Government information, they say unless reform happens, they will give the media outlets with the documents the encryption keys necessary to open them and make the information public.  They end the video basically declaring digital war on the Justice Department.  The response from the UCCIS was simply to take down the site completely, reassign a new IP address and reinstate it.  However, this effort was moot due to the fact that Sunday afternoon the site had been hacked again, this time with a user interactive video game inspired by the classic game, “Asteroids.”  By completing the game, users discovered a series of text lines which spelled out the words, “We do not forget, We do not forgive.”  When squinting however, the small text group created the silhouette of the infamous Guy Fawkes mask, standing firm for liberty and freedom from all government control.  Anyone who has seen the movie “V for Vendetta” would be familiar both with this character and his beliefs.  The picture can be seen in the above second link.  Needless to say the site was removed again, and as of Sunday night it is still down, presuming that there is not yet a fix for the issues found within the site.

You are probably wondering at this point what any of this has to do with social media or social branding.  The answer is both obvious and interesting.  It has everything to do with both of these topics.  The story started with Reddit, an open source sharing site where users interact and share about anything and everything one can think of.  This type of site is something fully supported by Anonymous.  Next, the prosecution of Aaron Swartz and the petitioning of thousands of internet and social media users fighting for his freedom after the news spread like wildfire over the platforms we use every day to communicate digitally.  Enter Anonymous hacking the government website and establishing their “brand” arguably more than they ever have in their short history.  All this leads to me, the user discovering the initial article through using Flipboard, a mobile news platform customizable to the interests of each individual user.  Follow then the story link to YouTube, where the hacking group Anonymous posts their agendas for anyone to see publicly.  There relevance here is, that this huge monstrous story has been going on for all the month of January and has been reported on, commented about, and argued over, all through social media.  Anonymous couldn’t have asked for a better way to establish their brand.  The world is talking about something that would have most certainly been hidden by the government not 5 years ago.

I pose this concluding question to the reader, “Is Anonymous an enemy?”  I myself wonder how much power should one group have before we are to fear them.  In this case the government is not excluded from this pondering.  Looking forward to the comments.

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