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Apr 13

Inside the hacktivist revolution

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(Image: Luminant Media)

It is the story that is as fluid as its members. Despite the flood of press coverage over the past year documenting any number of angles of Anonymous, the elusive hacker collective, one could not help but feel journalists were barely getting a snapshot of a much bigger picture. Trying to describe the members or actions of Anonymous in general terms is akin to taking a small sample of ocean water and calling it representative of the whole body.

Even as a member of the press who had become relatively familiar with some of the inner circles of leadership, it was clear to me that whatever I thought I knew was just the tip of the iceberg, if it wasn’t altogether an illusion. At any given moment, there were systemic reorganisations, new and cancelled operations, and shifting modi operandi.

There was one story that rarely got told, though. Every bit as important as their actions, it was the story of how, or perhaps why, Anonymous exists at all. We Are Legion: The story of the hacktivists by documentarian Brian Knappenberger is the first film attempt at laying out the history, context and progression of the collective.

Knappenberger skillfully connects the dots of hacktivism’s rise from its deep roots in 1960s sit-ins to the raw prankster culture that formed eight years ago on the 4chan website’s online “anything goes” message board called “/b/”. Here, users anonymously posted “pictures that could never be unseen” to shock or disgust each other in a never-ending one-upmanship frenzy.

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