Anonymous is Back: Are The World's Most Famous Hacktivists Still Equally Feared?

Shouvik Das

Anonymous, the Batman-like vigilante of the internet that was once widely feared, now appears to be back in action. The claims have been put forth courtesy a viral video posted originally on Anonymous’ own Facebook page itself, where the once-feared silhouette of a black hooded jacket and the signature Guy Fawkes mask has appeared after years of relative inactivity. In the video, the figure speaks out against police brutality in light of the recent murder of George Floyd by ex-officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, Derek Chauvin.

The message

In the video, the figure says, “Police brutality and murder is a widespread problem in the United States, which has undoubtedly infected nearly every jurisdiction in the country. But, the Minneapolis police department is among the worst and has a horrible track record of violence and corruption. This week’s brutal killing of George Floyd, which has sparked protests and national outrage, is just the tip of the iceberg in a long list of high profile cases of wrongful deaths at the hands of officers in your state.”

The message highlights the inaction of US police officers who stand by perpetrators of violence and do nothing, thereby being complicit to such acts of violence as well. It ends with a resounding sentence, stating that beginning May 29, Anonymous will be exposing the “many crimes” of United States police departments. Earlier today, about a day after Anonymous posted the message, reports by US citizens started claiming that the website of the Minneapolis police department was pulled down, allegedly by Anonymous. While News18 could confirm that the police department’s website was indeed down as of 3PM IST, it could not verify if it was the work of Anonymous’ members.

The video message further states, “In the past two decades, 193 people have been killed by police in Minnesota, including the deaths of Jamar Clark, Philando Castle, Justine Damond, Thomas Blevines and Brian Quinones. These are only the cases that caught headlines, where videos and other evidence prove that the police are lying.” It eventually states that the “travesty has continued for far too long, and the people have had enough.”

Towards the end of the message, Anonymous says, “You may have fired the officer to save face, but it is obvious that this type of behaviour is condoned, if not encouraged in your department, as it is in others. Officers who kill people and commit other crimes need to be held accountable just like the rest of us; otherwise, they will believe they have the license to do whatever they want.”

The recent line of events

Chauvin has since been fired from his department, and charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. However, this has not prevented protests that have also broken into riots in many areas. This is further combined with US president Donald Trump’s radical and incendiary opinions posted on Twitter, against which many including Twitter itself are speaking up against. Since earlier this week, Twitter began labelling Trump’s tweets as factually incorrect and inciting violence, marking the platform’s first major move against a political figure of power, after doling out similar labelling to Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

USA has been rocked by protests and riots across the country, fuelled by Chauvin’s heinous act and Trump’s tweets. While many took to Twitter to express awe upon discovering the Anonymous message, it remains unclear as to how much of its old power and threat does the hacktivist collective still carry. Over the past few years, noted Anonymous members such as Barrett Brown and Hector ‘Sabu’ Monsegur were rounded up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, leading many to assume that Anonymous only remained a shadow of what it once was. The collective has its place etched in internet culture already, with its signature of the Guy Fawkes mask and the ending phrase of ‘We are legion, expect us’ being treated with considerable amount of caution by official departments.

Going forward, it remains to be seen how Anonymous eventually impacts the socio-political situation in USA right now. The collective’s online portals have been more active in recent times, and this may well be a sign of things to come.