By Amrita Moitra:
One would think that plots of vengeance and hi-tech espionage exist only on the silver screen. But the perpetrators of vigilante justice have morphed from fictional characters into real-life organizations. The most renowned of these underground groups is the Hacktivist association Anonymous. Anonymous, an international network of rogue hackers, seeks retribution for unjust actions committed by big businesses. While Anonymous’ reasons for hacking other organizations are justified, the group’s methodology is severely flawed. Instead of helping the downtrodden, they are in fact detrimental to society.
Anonymous’ version of vigilante justice has one major flaw: it is not an effective solution to the problem. Their various activities, including shutting down the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) website, hacking into various financial institutions and retaliating against online piracy legislation, have done little to nothing to solve the very issues they protest.
During the BART attack, Anonymous protested the fatal shooting of a man by BART police by spamming the company website. This response, while it does have an impact on BART, does nothing to solve the root issue of the ordeal: police brutality.
Anonymous exhibited this trend again in their harassment of MasterCard, an event known as “Operation: Payback.” After the credit card company eliminated funds towards Wikileaks, anonymous shut down over a thousand accounts of MasterCard users. Once again, Anonymous failed to address the issue, simply wreaking havoc with no end result in mind. This sort of “justice” is pointless; at best Anonymous’ hackings serve as an annoyance for affected companies and an amusing story for bystanders.
But what is perhaps the most harmful aspect of Anonymous’ actions is their complete disregard for casualties. Their BART and “Operation: Payback” attacks also illustrate Anonymous’ complete disregard for helping the public. The organization released the data of over 2400 BART customers, including their names, emails, phone numbers and addresses. This intentional release of information put thousands of people at risk for varying degrees of identity theft.
In “Operation: Payback,” Anonymous shut down MasterCard accounts for thousands of users who had nothing to do with the defunding of Wikileaks. Both protests affected citizens whom Anonymous set out to avenge. Instead, it was those very people who were adversely affected. Anonymous’ ambition to end social suffering is in fact only a pretense. Their actions go directly against their goals, therefore eliminating any good intentions the organization may profess to have.
The question regarding Anonymous’ hacking protests is not whether it is legal, but whether it is effective. Their attempts at vigilante justice have shown that hacktivism is ineffective is solving social issues. Not only does Anonymous fail to address problems and protect the people they claim to serve, but they also isolate the general public from their cause. Because every person does not possess the ability to hack, Anonymous’ method of protest is meaningful to only a select group. Even if Anonymous were to create protests significant to the issues and completely eliminate casualties, the fact still remains that very few people can be a part of any hacktivist revolutions.