The "Anonymous" Movement: Hacktivism as an Emerging Form of Political Participation
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This thesis focuses on the phenomenon of hacktivism, and specifically the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous. Hacktivists can be defined as politically motivated hackers. Hacktivists are different from other types of hackers because their motivations are driven by the pursuit of social change, as opposed to seeking profit or intellectual pursuit. Hacktivism is a new controversial form of civic participation, which will most likely continue to have an impact on the Internet and the world. A lack of detailed sociological research on hacktivists serves as the rationale for this study.
This study specifically focused on the experiences of the hacktivist community in the United States, known under the name of Anonymous. This thesis focused on, but is not limited to: a) examining how members of Anonymous define themselves, as well as how security professionals (a.k.a. ethical hackers) define or view hacktivists; b) how hacktivists operate and/or organize; and c) examining hacktivist culture and ethical stances (including whether hacktivism can be considered permissible or ethical). My research employed two primary strategies: content analysis of the Anonymous message boards and in-depth interviews with security professionals. The two approaches were meant to be complimentary: while the content analysis draws a picture of how members of Anonymous see themselves and their goals; the interviews were meant to draw the picture of how others view or understand hacktivists.