The global hacker collective Anonymous has made a name for itself with daring hacks of government websites. Many of those hacks, and the group's other actions, are part of solidarity efforts for a chosen cause. Last week, members of the group Free Anons released this video in support of fellow hacktivists and other whistleblowers who are currently imprisoned.
Members of the collective have provided support to a wide spectrum of people and movements outside the group.
Among them is Barrett Brown, a journalist and activist who is currently facing charges for copying and pasting a link into an online chatroom. The link led to data on the private global intelligence firm Stratfor, which was originally leaked by Anonymous member Jeremy Hammond. Both men are currently being prosecuted by the United States government, and Brown faces more than 100 years in prison if found guilty of all 17 of the charges against him.
Free Anons, also known as the Anonymous Solidarity Network, is a group of Anonymous members that "exists to provide legal, financial and moral support for activists facing prosecution for involvement, alleged or otherwise, in Anonymous actions." The group is registered as a corporation in Florida; its president and spokesperson is Nancy Norelli, an attorney who donates her time and skills to the group. Besides helping imprisoned Anons find lawyers and stay in touch with their families, the network also collects donations and raises awareness about Anonymous cases.
While the Anonymous Solidarity Network exists specifically for imprisoned Anons, other members of the collective have provided support to a wide spectrum of people and movements outside the group. Members of the collective were instrumental in starting or reopening prosecution of three rape cases—those of Steubenville's Jane Doe, Rehtaeh Parsons, and now Daisy, one of the victims in the Maryville rape case. After the Westboro Baptist Church announced its plans to picket the funerals of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Anonymous members took down the Westboro website and vowed to "dismantle" the church.
Anonymous also supports major social movements. The group undertook operations to help Egyptian activists during the Arab Spring, taking offline at least three Egyptian government websites. Other repressive governments have been targets of similar actions. And Anonymous members were stalwarts of the Occupy movement, organizing protests and even attacking the website of the New York Stock Exchange.
While Anonymous has supported many causes, it gravitates toward operations that involve freedom of information, surveillance, and government corruption—increasingly urgent issues in the wake of the NSA spying revelations.