Who are Anonymous: freedom fighters or criminals?

A mysterious group called Anonymous is staging protests and publicity stunts. Who are they and what do they want?


Who are Anonymous?

The logo of hacker activists

The Anonymous logo

To understand Anonymous you only need three words:

Activists, Hackers and Guy Fawkes.

It’s a good thing Scenes of Reason has handy guides on all three. You’re totally welcome. 😉

Anonymous is a global network of activists and hackers. It has members in countries all around the world.

Members are known as “Anons” and hide their identity by wearing Guy Fawkes masks, similar to those worn in the film “V for Vendetta”.


We’ll let them explain further in their own words:



What do they do?

Anonymous first started out on the image website 4chan. Visitors to the site show up as “Anonymous” hence the name.

Anonymous protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks out side the church of Scientology

Anonymous outside the Church of Scientology

4chan users raided and hacked websites including several attacks on social networking site Habbo Hotel. These led to the first media reports on the group.

A common Anonymous tactic is a “denial of service” attack. This crashes a website by sending LOTS of internet traffic its way. Death by spam, basically.

Soon the group started pranks and “operations” in the real world. Anonymous first wore Guy Fawkes masks to protect their identity whilst protesting against  the Church of Scientology.

The church had tried to remove a video about Scientology by serving a legal copyright notice. Anonymous saw this as trying to censor the internet.

The motto commonly associated with Anonymous is: “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”


What do they believe in?

Anonymous isn’t your regular activist group, compared to a flock of birds;

“How do you know they’re a group? Because they’re travelling in the same direction. At any given moment, more birds could join, leave, peel off in another direction entirely.”

Poster for anonymous campaign Operation Payback

Anonymous campaign poster

According to the group there is a loose command structure in place. However, as there is no official leadership it makes it very hard to link actions to the “group”. Journalist Quinn Norton writes;

“Its wild string of brilliant hacks and protests seemed impossible in the absence of some kind of defined organization.”

It’s even harder to work out what their motives are, or what they want.

Anonymous has been associated with liberal or anti-establishment causes. For anti-establishment think: against the established authority and opposing conventional society.

Many Anonymous videos talk about giving the power back to the people. Anonymous has assisted pro-democracy movements in the Middle East and have taken on big corporations like PayPal.

However for many, taking part in raids would seem to be purely for Lulz. Lulz – plural of Lol (laugh out loud), now used to describe funny internet content.



Anonymous at the Million Mask March on the London underground

Going underground

Quinn Norton notes that you’re never sure if they are the hero or anti-hero. Parmy Olson wrote a book on Anonymous and mentions that they have done a lot of bad things.

“Unnecessarily harassing people — I would class that as a bad thing. DDOSing [attacking] the CIA website, stealing customer data and posting it online just for shits and giggles is not a good thing.”

If Anonymous wants power for the people how does exposing their private details help? Seems like someone went off message.

Having no clear ideology makes it difficult for Anons to decide what they stand for, and what activity is off-limits.

Disagreements within the group are regular. Like when a small group threatened to take down Facebook, only to be disavowed by the majority of Anonymous. Bit embarrassing.


Are Anonymous freedom fighters or criminals?

Anonymous leader Hector Monsegur, unmasked by the FBI

Anonymous unmasked; leader Hector Monsegur

Though they may hack websites for the banter, when you take down the US Department of Justice’s page you risk the wrath of the security services.

So far dozens from many countries (including the UK and US)  have been arrested for taking part in Anonymous hacks. A 19-year-old called Dmitriy Guzner was sent to jail for a year for hacking.

Hector Monsegur, one of the main leaders of the group was identified by the FBI in 2011. Monsegur then spied on Anonymous for the FBI, leading to more arrests.

Anonymous’s attacks on child pornography websites on the Dark Web have been praised by some. However others say that taking vigilante action may compromise existing police investigations.

Don’t think this is just about crashing websites though. Anonymous actually caused the resignation of Aaron Barr, CEO of company HBGary. Emails they had hacked into revealed some dodgy corporate behaviour.

Anonymous also organises the Million Mask March, an annual event where Anons descend on London. In recent years this has also expanded to other cities. Violence has previously broken out at these marches with protesters fighting against police officers.

It could be argued that being a freedom fighter requires breaking the law in order to overcome the current system. But is violence ever justified?

Anonymous has just as many enemies as supporters. However Anonymous is here to stay, at least for now. After all, how do you shut down a global operation which has no known base?


Anonymous Unmasked; the most elusive activist group in the world

Is this new activist group what’s needed to take on corruption and bring power back to the people? Or is just a network of bored troublemakers? What’s your take on Anonymous?

Do say: “Anonymous is an interesting example of how lack of structure in an organisation makes it hard to shut down”

Don’t say: “I bet they couldn’t hack me”

Subscribe to our weekly explainer The Week: Decoded, like us on Facebook and follow @scenesofreason


The weekend means two things: The hangover breakfast and hours spent on social media. However you should probably think before you post. As recent events show that being careless on social media can leave you unemployed, arrested or even dead.


Location, Location, Location.

Two IS soldiers one with a balaclava. Tagline "no filter"

A social media fail led to US forces bombing the location of IS soldiers

We all love a good selfie. Especially when we’re in a glamorous location. But if you are a member of a rebel terrorist group, it might be best to stay off Twitter.

This week the location of an Islamic State hideout was busted after an IS fighter decided to post a selfie.

US spies recognised the background and within 24 hours they had bombed the area.

If alive, the IS fighter probably hasn’t had any new follower requests.



Similarly, a Russian soldier gave the game away when he posted on Instagram from Ukraine. You can find out all about the Russia/Ukraine saga right here, but in a nutshell Russia was NOT supposed to be in Ukraine. They’d even denied they had soldiers in the country.

Social Media Fail by Alexander Sotkin revealed that he was in Ukraine with Russian soldiers

The social media fail which revealed Russian soldiers might be somewhere they shouldn’t


VICE news even used social media to track down Russian soldiers;


Come Fly With Me

Everyone loves a good prank. Pretend to be someone else and wind them up. Classic banter. A fourteen year old girl decided to take it to a whole new level and tweeted a threat to an airline as a joke.

As you can imagine this very quickly backfired.

Teenage girl tweets an airline pretending to be a terrorist. They pass on her details to the FBI: Social Media Fail

Airline Fail: Don’t pretend to be a terrorist


Don’t worry though, she had things covered.


Social Media Fail - the girl who tweeted pretending to be a terrorist then blocked the FBI

Good plan.

However, this didn’t stop her from being arrested. Nice try though.


Hackers gonna hack

Hacker Chris Roberts commits a Social Media Fail and was arrested. His tweet looked like he was going to hack into the WIFI of a plane

Chris Roberts was about to get hacked off

Bragging about your skills is never cool. But if your skill is hacking… maybe keep it on the down low. Computer expert Chris Robert’s wasn’t expecting the response he got when he posted this tweet to the right:

Yeah, we don’t really understand it either. But apparently it refers to a weakness in the airplane WI-FI system which could allow a hacker to take over the flight controls.

It’s like every plane disaster movie you’ve ever seen rolled into one.

The US authorities didn’t take kindly to this and arrested Roberts as soon as he landed. Then confiscated his laptop.

Oh, and if you want the low down on hacking you can read our guide. You’re like totally welcome.


Funeral = Not A Photo-Op


David Cameron's Social Media Fail - getting a selfie with Barack Obama and the Prime Minister of Denmark

“Did you get my good side?”

It was all going so well for David Cameron. Leader of the Conservative party, then Prime Minister, he was finally invited to one of the biggest public events in history: Nelson Mandela’s funeral. What could possibly go wrong?


What better way to show your respect to a dead world leader than selfie-ing up with US President Barack Obama and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt?


David Cameron's Social Media Fail - getting a selfie with Barack Obama and the Prime Minister of Denmark

Say Cheese!



The world didn’t take too well to this social media fail and Cameron later tried to save face by suggesting the photo be auctioned off to charity.

Bidding starts at 1p, any takers?

Don’t think President Obama got off the hook, however. Just look at the frown on his wife’s face. He’s in big trouble.





David Cameron also took flak after the Downing Street official Facebook page changed its profile picture to an image of the prime minister wearing a Remembrance Day poppy. Poppies are worn to honour those who gave their lives in war and conflict.

David Cameron's social media fail with a poppy photo-shopped onto an existing image

Spot the difference

The problem? Turns out the poppy was actually photo-shopped onto an existing image. Awkward!


By-Election Bye Bye


Emily Thornberry MP's tweet about Rochester features a white van and three England flags.

A political social media fail led to the resignation of Emily Thornberry

It’s not just the Prime Minister who found out that Politics and Social Media fails really don’t mix. Labour MP Emily Thornberry lost her job in the Shadow Cabinet for tweeting this picture of a white van and some England flags.

Thornberry had travelled up to support the Labour party in a by-election. (What is this I hear you say? Take a look at The By-Election: Decoded)

Residents of Rochester were furious at the tweet and many thought Thornberry was making a snooty comment about the working classes.

Then a “helpful” journalist decided to point out it wasn’t the first time she had tweeted about England flags.


Maybe she just really likes flags. Maybe.


Queen Elizabeth II is (not) DEAD

Yeah, OK, maybe not. But BBC journalist Ahmen Khawaja decided to send a tweet saying exactly that.

Tween From Ahmen Khawaja stating that Queen Elizabeth II is dead

Killing a royal is the ultimate Social Media Fail

Turns out the BBC was just running a rehearsal to work out how they would cover an event such as the Queen’s death. Not weird at all. The rehearsal coincided with Queenie’s annual medical check up.

Khawaja’s version of events; she got pranked. #likelystory


Learnings: Social Media Fails can be fun.

If you take fun to mean “deadly dangerous”.

Could Instagramming your brunch lead to you being arrested? More importantly  – is anyone actually using Pinterest? Answers in 140 characters or less.


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Is Cyberbullying harmless banter or serious crime?

If you post a negative comment about someone online is that just harmless banter, or cyberbullying? What about freedom of speech?


What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbulling = a wave of fire hits a computer user

Cyberbulling; a barrage of online insults

Cyberbullying (AKA Trolling) is bombarding someone online with insults and threats.

The rise of social media and online chatrooms has made it a lot easier for people to engage in cyberbullying. It’s a lot easier to say something nasty online, rather than to someone’s face. Victims of trolling can be celebrities but can also be ordinary people.

Cyberbullying can be as simple as leaving a hateful comment on someone’s profile, all the way up to posting naked pictures of someone online, or threatening them.

Though trolling is now part of  popular culture, referenced in films like Chatroom and Unfriended, this issue is more serious than it first seems.


Why are we talking about trolling?

Apps like Tripadvisor, where you can rate restaurants and hotels, are often hijacked by trolls. In some cases the trolls haven’t even visited the restaurant they are slamming.

As soon as a high-profile news story breaks, you can bet that people online will be expressing their views pretty vocally. There’s nothing wrong with expressing an opinion, but often people go a step too far. Charlotte Proudman, the barrister who called out sexism online received a barrage of death threats and menacing messages.

Twitter response to the Peeple app, people make comments comparing it to cyberbullying and trolling

Is #peeple just a new app for cyberbullying?

As with regular bullying, what can seem to the bully as harmless banter can be experienced by the victim as cyberbullying.

Defining cyberbullying is a question of proportion. Posting a single joke, or negative comment could be seen as harmless, but if this happens regularly then it could be seen as trolling.

However, even a single comment can be damaging, especially if you haven’t asked for feedback. That’s why everyone is getting vocal about a new app called Peeple. This app allows you to rate and review people you know, just like Tripadvisor.

People are irked because there is no way to opt out from being rated. The Telegraph describes how you can rate other people even if they don’t have the app, by simply entering their mobile number. To remove the review they have to sign up to the app themselves.

Positive responses to the Peeple app, accused of being a cyberbullying app

Divisive; Peeple has some supporters

Peeple CEO Julia Cordray said “You’re going to rate people in the three categories that you can possibly know somebody — professionally, personally or romantically”.

Ratings and reviews are not anonymous, something which the developers hope will prevent trolling and increase the amount of positive reviews. If someone calls you out with a negative review you get a 48 hour window to sort things with them before the comment is posted online.

It could be argued that Peeple users should be allowed to air their views. You know, freedom of speech and all that. Despite this people are still worried this is basically a trolling app; whereas some others are going to give Peeple a chance.

Cordray acknowledges that “there seems to be some fear and I have a lot of empathy for that… But I’m going to lead by example and show that this app is actually more positive than it ever could be negative.”

Which is fair enough, but as Cordray also says that we “deserve to see where you could improve” perhaps the negative comments about aspects of the Peeple app should be used to improve it?

Some are calling for Peeple to be banned by the app store –  others think governments can do much more to stop trolling ruining lives.

Have your say:

Is Peeple a good or bad thing? Let us know;


Should we take a tougher stance on trolling?

The number of cyberbullying victims in the UK is on the rise. A man called Sean Duffy was jailed in 2011 for posting insulting and insensitive messages about people who had died. In 2013 a teenage girl committed suicide after being bullied online.

A victim of cyberbullying with her head in her hands

Cyberbullying is on the rise in the UK

Yet for now there is no specific law against cyberbullying.

We have three different laws; the Malicious Communications Act, the Communications Act and the Protection from Harassment Act. Overkill much?

Messages which show intent to cause physical harm or violence, harassment or stalking will get you into trouble. But the Crown Prosecution Service (the guys who take you to court) is quite strict about who gets served.

Children who are unlikely to know the damage their comments may cause are unlikely to be prosecuted.

The UK government has just released a new anti-trolling website to help victims of cyberbullying. Should we go further, following New Zealand in making cyberbullying illegal?

New Zealand’s anti-trolling law was voted this year. It focuses on hate speech – so racism, sexism, homophobia are all no-goes. Trolls using offensive language or bullying people could end up with a fine or even jail time.

Despite most New Zealand MPs voting in favour of the new law many people worry it will limit freedom of speech. They say people offended by jokes, satirical articles or opinion pieces could use the law to attempt to get them removed.

Trolling is becoming a real problem, but is restricting people’s comments online prohibiting freedom of speech?


Cyberbullying Decoded: If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.

Should the UK create a specific cyberbullying law? Are apps like Peeple just a harmless bit of tech, or something more sinister?

If you or someone you know is the victim of cyberbullying, Childline offers support and has guidance pages about what to do.


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In light of Amazon: 9 to 5 work is dead now anyway


An article about Amazon’s working conditions makes us analyse the modern working world as we know it. 


What’s the story?

Amazon's head office front door. New York Times Amazon Report: 9 to 5 is dead now anyway

9 to 5 is dead: Amazon’s working conditions have been criticised

Everyone is talking about a New York Times article: “Inside Amazon: Wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace”. It describes what it’s like working at the retail giant. Apparently the bosses at Amazon are conducting an “experiment” into how far they can push their workers. Employees describe working 80 hour weeks. They are pressured into working nights and weekends. There is a total lack of work/life balance. Amazon boss Jeff Bezos says the Amazon described is “not the Amazon I know”. Right or wrong, the report has got people thinking whether the “9 to 5” working day is a thing of the past.


Working 9 to 5? At Amazon it’s more like 24/7

Large amounts of the NYT article detail the long hours Amazon employees are expected to work. Workers sometimes receive emails in the middle of the night, and are then pestered to answer by text. This seems to sound familiar though? 

Bankers, lawyers, doctors and service industry workers are just some examples of employees expected to work late, or start early. Banking website Wall Street Oasis reports that employees at banks like Rothschild, Barclays and Citigroup work over 70 hours a week on average. The Telegraph reported last year that junior doctors were working 100 hour weeks. These are all professions which have been around a long, long time.

Amazon warehouse. Vox news say things are a lot worse for Blue collar workers. New York Times Amazon Report: 9 to 5 is dead now anyway

Amazon’s warehouse workers definitely don’t work 9 to 5. Why didn’t the New York Times write about this?

So, maybe the viewpoint that “9 to 5 is dead” isn’t so new after all.

Vox News argued that the NYT article focuses on “white collar” workers. Think: office working professionals. Vox claims workers in Amazon warehouses have it a lot worse.  They face tough working conditions, low pay and a constant threat of dismissal. They have less chance of finding employment elsewhere than the “white collar” professionals. However, once the warehouse workers clock off, it’s unlikely their bosses will email them asking them to finish a piece of work. So, at least that’s something.

The NYT report compares how Amazon, Google and Facebook manage their workers. Google and Facebook motivate their staff with rewards (gym passes, meals, sleep pods). Amazon “offers no pretence that catering to employees is a priority”. Who is to say which is better? Amazon is currently worth around $175 billion.  

Journalist Sara Robinson notes that research in the 1980s found that working  60 or 70 hour weeks resulted in short-term gains. However, “increasing a team’s hours in the office by 50 percent (from 40 to 60 hours) does not result in 50 percent more output.” So, regularly getting employees to work longer once they’ve done their 40 hours is “a stupid and abusive way to burn up profits.” Back to the drawing board then. Perhaps we should just see the Amazon article as an insight to a successful (if divisive) company. We are talking about THE leading tech company in the world, right?


Work hard, play hard, work harder seems to just be the norm now

While Amazon is being criticised for its working practices, working harder and longer seems to be the norm for many companies. Other tech companies especially seem to be joining Amazon in demanding more from their workers. Innovation is key, and falling behind is not an option.

An office cubicle wall with post it notes for productivity. New York Times Amazon Report:9 to 5 is dead now anyway

Amazon may have it wrong. Working more than 9 to 5 may not make you more productive

Just how much of our lives do we spend working? According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the UK average working week is 39.2 hours per week. France introduced a 35 hour working week in 2000. However in 2011, it was reported that French workers were putting in 39.5 hours on average. Mon Dieu!

At 46.7 hours per week on average it would seem the USA works more hours than most European countries. Yet Asian countries work more hours than America. Is it productive? There are many ways to measure how productive a country is. One way is to divide a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the number of hours worked. GDP is the monetary value of all goods and services produced in the country. With us so far?

The ONS say Britain isn’t doing too well in this area. British productivity is 17% less than the average of other developed G7 countries. The G7 contains Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and USA. This “productivity gap” is the widest it’s been in 20 years. Ouch.

The latest statistics say the average Brit works 1,669 hours a year. This is more than France at 1,489 hours and Germany at 1,363 hours. So, we are working longer hours, but producing less. Germany works fewer hours on average, yet they are producing more than us. In fact the UK produces 30% less per hour than Germany and France. Very poor form chaps.

One of the main problems with working out productivity is there is so, so much data to look at. Even when you find what you’re looking for, it will soon be out of date. When researching this article we found that many sources containing average working hours and productivity figure seemed to contradict one another.

The bottom line: a country’s efficiency isn’t just to do with how many hours they work. But it seems the UK has something to prove when it comes to productivity. Increasing working hours may not be the answer.


If 9 to 5 is dead, what’s the new trend?

Millennials are those born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s. They are the new workforce, and research says that compared to previous generations, they have a different approach to work.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 To kick off our prep work for the Global Youth Summit, the ITU hosted special one-day MILLENNIALS JAM WORKSHOP at its ICT Discover Center, with an exclusive and select group of 40 entrepreneurial young people. The objective of this unique one-day event is to crowd-source a more detailed framework for the Summit where approximately 25,000 young people will input their ideas for the post-2015 global development agenda. ITU/Rowan Farrell New York Times Amazon Report: 9 to 5 is dead now anyway

Be your own boss: Millennials are ditching 9 to 5 to start their own businesses

The Intelligence Group is a research company focusing on young people. Forbes reports on The Intelligence Group who found that Millennials want to feel their work matters. They want flexibility in their work schedule. They want “to invest in a place where they can make a difference, preferably a place that itself makes a difference.”

Job website Timewise says that 14.1 million Brits want flexibility in their work schedule. But when looking at 3.5 million job adverts they saw that only 6% offered flexibility and a good salary. London was the worst. Does this mean the UK is following the Amazon style of work: long hours and little flexibility? If so, the Millennials don’t seem too fussed. Self-employment and freelancing is on the rise.

Millennials were either studying or entering work at the time of the financial crisis. Perhaps this means they see a job differently to previous generations: not for life, but an opportunity to learn new skill sets and build a network of contacts.

According to research by the Kauffman Foundation over half of 18 to 34s want to start their own business. They are adept at working remotely – from home, in coffee shops or “hot desking”. They also want to work in collaborative environments. This is potentially why so many companies are replacing offices and cubicles in the workplace for an open plan design. Advertising agency Grey even created a “Millennials only” section to their office.

Millennials want flexibility and to work remotely. Don’t make the mistake of calling them lazy though. A separate study found that 89% of Millennials admit to checking work emails “out of hours”. Though, with 9 to 5 seemingly out the window, is there such thing as out of hours anymore?

By 2020, around 40% of the US workforce will be made up of Millennials. Eventually bosses will need to adapt to the needs of this generation. Let’s start by busting the myth working longer makes you more productive.


Learnings: 9 to 5 is dead

It’s time to start embracing change, and with that in mind let’s be specific about what we are crucifying Amazon for. Feeling like you’re working too hard? Sharing this post will definitely make you feel better.


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The truth about Sexting.

What is Sexting?

Sexting; scene from TV comedy "New Girl" where the characters mock Shakespeare sonnets

Shakespeare’s Sonnets; early forms of sexting?

Sexting; sending someone explicit photographs or messages by phone. Basically, nude-y pictures and sex chat.

The term “sexting” was coined in 2004 in a Globe and Mail article “Textual Gratification”. Picture texts were invented in 2002, so it didn’t take long for people to work out that camera + text = good times.

Some people argue that humans have always used the latest advances to talk dirty and that sexting is just the latest technological advance. In the 1900s, where the fountain pen was the equivalent of the iPhone the letters of writer James Joyce to his wife were infamously graphic. Looking even further back in time could some of Shakespeare’s sonnets (love poems claimed to have been written for a secret lover) be early versions of the sext?


The argument; Sexting is harmless

Sexting - the argument is that it is just harmless fun

Sexting; harmless fun?

Let’s face it; sexting is fun! Apps like Tinder are now becoming the norm where strangers meet online and flirt.

For many sexting is seen as harmless; flirting without serious consequences or the risk of embarrassment if you’re rejected.

Another argument is that sexting is an act of empowerment; it’s your body and if you wish to send pictures then that’s your call.
In this regard perhaps Sexting could be categorised as “freedom of expression”?!
Within a relationship sexting can also be a good thing. If you’re long-distance or away from your partner it can be a good way of keeping things fresh and exciting. Steady now.


The argument; Sexting is harmful

Is Sexting dangerous?

Sexting; is it dangerous?

However, there are some cases where sexting can lead to bad situations. The amount of cases of sexting in schools is on the rise. The National Crime Agency says it receives one case a day of a child being involved in Sexting.

Children who don’t know the risks are vulnerable to exploitation. They are often pressured into sharing pictures by friends; and even by people they don’t know. Doesn’t sound like it’s just harmless fun?

And if the picture gets into the wrong hands and is shared around; it’s very difficult to either delete the image or even find out who’s been sharing it. Images can often spread very quickly.


Is Sexting dangerous? A man taking a selfie by a train, gets his head kicked

Selfies are dangerous? Nahhhhhh.

Search “Sexting suicide” and you’ll find loads of stories about people who have taken their own lives. The reports say these suicides were due to embarrassment, shame and bullying due to pictures and texts being shared around their schools.

Most recently Ronan Hughes, a 17-year-old from Ireland, committed suicide last week. It’s being reported that he may have been tricked into posting images online and was being blackmailed. Of course, we will never know the many and complex reasons why these people chose to end their lives but these stories have added to concerns over Sexting.


Why are we talking about Sexting?

A new campaign has been launched by the National Crime Agency to raise awareness of the dangers of Sexting. A series of videos aimed to help parents are being released. There are also versions of the website for all age groups giving them the information they need to stay safe. Get the knowledge at www.thinkuknow.co.uk



What we learned; if you want to keep something private say it in person

Sexting allows us to say and do things we maybe wouldn’t in real life; is this a good or bad thing? Answers below, no pictures please 😉


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