Anonymous (used as a mass noun) is a loosely associated hacktivist group. It originated in 2003 on the imageboard 4chan, representing the concept of many online and offline community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global brain. It is also generally considered to be a blanket term for members of certain Internet subcultures, a way to refer to the actions of people in an environment where their actual identities are not known. It strongly opposes Internet censorship and surveillance, and has hacked various government websites. It has also targeted major security corporations. It also opposes Scientology, government corruption and homophobia. Its members can be distinguished in public by the wearing of stylised Guy Fawkes masks.
In its early form, the concept was adopted by a decentralized online community acting anonymously in a coordinated manner, usually toward a loosely self-agreed goal, and primarily focused on entertainment. Beginning with 2008, the Anonymous collective became increasingly associated with collaborative, international hacktivism. They undertook protests and other actions in retaliation against anti-digital piracy campaigns by motion picture and recording industry trade associations. Actions credited to "Anonymous" were undertaken by unidentified individuals who applied the Anonymous label to themselves as attribution. They have been called the freedom fighters of the Internet, a digital Robin Hood, and "anarchic cyber-guerrillas."
Although not necessarily tied to a single online entity, many websites are strongly associated with Anonymous. This includes notable imageboards such as 4chan, their associated wikis, Encyclopædia Dramatica, and a number of forums. After a series of controversial, widely publicized protests, distributed denial of service (DDoS) and website defacement attacks by Anonymous in 2008, incidents linked to its members increased. In consideration of its capabilities, Anonymous was posited by CNN in 2011 to be one of the three major successors to WikiLeaks. In 2012, Time named Anonymous as one of the most influential groups in the world.
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