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The Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) website was taken offline this weekend, with problems continuing through the night on Saturday, May 30. Anonymous did not claim responsibility for taking down the website, but the @LatestAnonNews Twitter account, which claims to be run by “multiple Anons,” retweeted others who suggested those were the result of an attack carried out by the group. Given the way Anonymous works, it would only take one member to be involved in an attack for it to fit under its banner.
What is Anonymous?
Anonymous is an international group of hacker activists, known for initiating cyber attacks against governments, institutions and corporations.
The group began on 4chan, an anonymous English-language imageboard website, in 2003.
Anonymous is decentralised, has no leadership and its members are unidentifiable.
Members often choose to cover their faces or wear the Guy Fawkes mask, made famous in the graphic novel and film V for Vendetta.
Hackers also often cover their voices by using voice-changers or speak-to-text programmes.
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The group was initially focused on providing entertainment before gradually becoming affiliated with activism on several international and humanitarian issues.
Dozens of people worldwide have been arrested for involvement in Anonymous-staged cyber attacks, including in the UK and US.
Anonymous was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine readers in 2012, while Time itself placed the group at 36th place.
The operations carried out by the group are very often antiestablishment and are supported by people around the world
Anonymous’s motto is: “We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive, we do not forget. Expect us.”
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Who have Anonymous cyber attacks targeted in the past?
Anonymous began by participating in pranks intended to bring entertainment to 4chan users.
The collective soon became associated with hacktivism, however, after it targeted the Church of Scientology in 2008 in a series of cyber-attacks which initiated protests against the church.
In 2010, Anonymous attacked Airplex software, a company working with film studios to shut down copyright infringement websites.
Anonymous closed down the Apex website for a whole day, saying: “Anonymous is tired of corporate interests controlling the internet and silencing people’s rights to spread information, but more importantly, the right to SHARE with one another.”
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Later that year, Anonymous hackers brought down the PayPal website and other organisations which had cut off services to Wikileaks.
In 2011 and 2012, Anonymous took action to support the Arab Spring movement.
The organisation helped Tunisians protect their web browsers from government surveillance, and helped dissidents in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Jordan and Zimbabwe.
The group has hacked hundreds of Chinese government websites to protest the treatment of its citizens, and hacked Israeli websites following its 2012 military operation in the Gaza Strip.
Anonymous has attacked US Government websites in retaliation to them shutting down file-sharing platforms.
The group has also targeted people and organisations accused of homophobia, including the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.
Ugandan Prime Minister Aamma Mbabazi was also targeted in retaliation to the Ugandan Parliament’s consideration of anti-homosexual laws.
Following police shootings of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice in 2014, Anonymous posted the identities of the police officers responsible to the internet.
Additionally, group members have also reportedly launched attacked against the Ku Klux Klan and Islamic extremist organisations.
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