In the wake of attacks on the websites of the Association for the Protection of Rights for musicians (OSA), the Czech government, center-right party the Civic Democrats (ODS), and street demonstrations against the Czech Republic’s signature on the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Anonymous movement has been propelled to the forefront of media attention.
The Czech government has now said that it will put ratification of the controversial ACTA accord on hold, a move which Anononymous has already attacked as falling short of its demands.
A Czech Anonymous activist who goes by the name of Great Troll agreed to give an interview to Czech Position on the understanding that he in no way represents the organization. The interview took place last week prior to the attack on the ODS website. Great Troll outlines the loose structure of the movement, albeit accompanies by risks of disciplinary action from certain factions, increasing technical cpacity for joint action, and the absolute determination to stop Czech support for ACTA.
Q: Are you part of Anonymous?
A: It’s not exactly easy to answer that because affiliation to the Anonymous movement is relatively debatable. If you consider Anonymous only as a group of radical hackers, then I’m definitely not a member. But I’m in contact with people who declare themselves to be “Anons” and actively participate in Anonymous actions. When the general media launched an hysterical campaign with the aim of manipulating public opinion about Anonymous, these people came to the conclusion that it would be advantageous to go public and state certain things as they are.
We can’t allow the same hysteria that has emerged elsewhere in the world to happen here, i.e. the digital witch hunts that have taken place in the US, Spain, Turkey, France and Britain. There alleged hackers from the Anonymous group have been arrested. Even 17-year-olds have been arrested because they are supposedly dangerous leaders of terrorist organizations. This could also happen in the Czech Republic if similar popularized hate is stirred up.
Q: Right now do you have permission to give this interview on behalf of Anonymous?
A: I don’t have such permission and would never be able to get it. Anonymous simply acts. If an act gets enough support from the internet community, it becomes official. It’s important that people get to know about an act or operation and that it doesn’t get lost in the flow of digital information.
Q: Does anyone know that you’re meeting with me today?
‘Fortunately, here in the Czech Republic we’re not living in the Wild West, we’re not in America, Russia or China. We live in a small European country which is relatively benevolent and relatively free’
A: Yes, but we didn’t announce it on Facebook.
Q: You say you want to state certain things as they are and at an appropriate level in order to avoid unnecessary hysteria. Why then did you refuse an interview with Czech Television (ČT)?
A: Because Czech Television is a manipulated media. Communication is much simpler when a journalist with an open-minded approach calls from a smaller media outlet which isn’t corrupted.
Q: Does the fact that you are sitting here talking with me here today present any kind of risk to you? From the police for example, or people from Anonymous who are against such meetings?
A: Definitely, but not from the police or the intelligence services. Fortunately, here in the Czech Republic we’re not living in the Wild West, we’re not in America, Russia or China. We live in a small European country which is relatively benevolent and relatively “free.”
There’s a certain degree of risk for me from the so-called Old Fags: they’re the older, or founding, Anons if you like. They like to damage others in malicious ways. They could, for example publish my personal data so that I could no longer participate in Anonymous. They also do things like sending their opponents pizzas, erotic toys, fat prostitutes and so on. … Anonymous is comprised of a large number of opposing movements of opinion. Many individuals and maybe larger groups of people will object to me having talked with you. But that doesn’t change the fact that in other circles it was decided that the interview should go ahead.
Q: Recently a spate of article have been published abroad and in the Czech Republic which label Anonymous activists as cyber terrorists, a sort of digital Al-Qaeda….
‘At the time of the Iranian presidential elections Anonymous helped the country’s Green Party to communicate with the rest of the world, that’s what those evil hackers did’A: It’s laughable. While this mass hysteria quite amuses me, at the same time I realize the risk it poses. The parallel with cyber terrorism only relates to one aspect from a whole range of Anonymous’ digital activities. While Anonymous also concentrates on something which people in government circles interpret as digital terrorism, in fact it’s something more like activism, a necessary part of the struggle against the one percent of the world’s population which owns an unbelievable percentage of all peoples’ resources. I would call it activism, not terrorism.
Q: The first action which brought widespread attention to Anonymous was Project Chanology, a campaign against the Church of Scientology during which activists wore the now-famous Guy Fawkes mask. What happened following the campaign against the Church of Scientology?
A: At the time of the Iranian presidential elections Anonymous helped the country’s Green Party to communicate with the rest of the world, that’s what those evil hackers did, not the kind community of nations which should guarantee freedom of speech the world over. A breakthrough occurred the year before last because of WikiLeaks, when as part of Operation Payback the sites of Visa, Paypal and others were taken out, NATO’s site infiltrated and so on. The Anonymous wave was launched and our ideas began to spread around the world. Operation Malaysia, Operation Egypt and others similar followed. Anonymous played an active role in the Arab Spring by enabling communication and helped the underground to spread news about its situation.
Q: So Anonymous does not concentrate only upon so-called denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
A: Anonymous always leaves behind everything it has been and continually comes up with new courses of action. The collective conscience of Anonymous is growing and each new Anon brings a new dimension and a fresh outlook. Although every Anon has a different approach, they can agree on something and that’s precisely why mass actions come about.
Q: What are the principles for the functioning of Anonymous?
A: Basically it’s simple. Anyone can be Anonymous. There’s no list of rules dictating how a member should look or think. There’s no model Anon. Basically anyone can come forward with an idea and it depends only on whether it gets sufficient support from the internet community. It’s a system of consensual decision making.
No referendums are held, there are no organizers, there’s just a flow of information which is in constant motion and which you either support or reject. It’s a sort of market place for ideas from which everybody can choose what’s to their liking. Of course, a lot depends on contacts. If you’re able to reach agreements with individual cells of Anonymous, the impact is guaranteed to be greater.
Q: If I chose to attack the website of the Czech government, how would I contact those Anonymous cells?
A: There are lots of possibilities but no predetermined approach. Try the Internet. Think over what it is you want to realize, how to present your idea, then it should be enough to search. There are many channels through which Anonymous communicates and they’re decentralized. I could recommend specific websites but I don’t want to, in the same way I don’t want to name the individual factions or groups within Anonymous. There are many, many factions and new ones are constantly emerging and old ones coming to an end.
Q: Is that the reason why one moment Anonymous calls for an attack on Facebook and then several minutes later an “official” tweet denies the whole action?
‘As for the Czech cells of Anonymous, there’s a group which is capable of infiltrating important databases and not only those of government bodies’A: That’s how Anonymous works. Some people would like to crush that colossus [Facebook], while other people realize that at the current moment it’s useful because it is used to spread awareness about Anonymous. That’s to say Facebook could be damaged, but it doesn’t have to be. Only time can tell whether or not an Anonymous announcement was correct and this is determined by whether or not a target was hit or not. That’s the only method of affirmation.
Q: Wouldn’t it be easier if Anonymous had some sort hierarchy, central body and a spokesman?
A: That could not come to be because it is not what Anonymous is. At present it’s impossible to misuse the organization. If somebody tries, the organization would deal with them. I don’t mean physical liquidation: they would receive a parcel of vibrators, be discredited on their own website and so on.
Of course organizers exist within project groups but there are no leaders. They only deal with specific campaigns they organize, but decisions don’t go through some council of elders. Anonymous is the ideal of direct democracy in practice.
Q: It appears that for the time being at least Facebook won’t be brought down. Who is Anonymous preparing to take on?
A: It depends how you view it. Do you want to fight against something, change something, or get involved in the activities of the older Anons which mostly involve digital pranks? The targets are definitely multi-colored. The most obvious aim at present is to stop the ACTA agreement and see to it that it does not pass in the Czech Republic. In the Czech space this is our prime target and we’re prepared to do many things to achieve it
Q: What will that entail exactly?
A: You’ll have to wait for a surprise.
Q: The media frequently speaks of “hacker attacks” by Anonymous. Do you consider a DDoS as a hacker attack?
A: No. They’re demonstrations in the virtual space. It’s the same as if you organize a protest march because they want to demolish your home to build ‘In the end the decisive factor in court will be just the skill of lawyers. And who has the most skillful lawyers? The large corporations. The common man wouldn’t have a chance’a motorway. Also in the virtual world there must be a lot of you if you’re to somehow block a metaphorical street. Nevertheless, in the history of Anonymous there have been several classic internet attacks. For example, the infiltration into the security firms Stratfor and HBGary. As for the Czech cells of Anonymous, there’s a group which is capable of infiltrating important databases and not only those of government bodies.
Q: How long has Anonymous been active in the Czech Republic?
A: There have been several Anons here operating independently for a long time now. For the most part, Anons here started to link up and communicate last September. It was in reaction to world events and inspired by Anonymous’ successes abroad. People discovered that active struggle makes sense.
Q: Do you meet up in person?
A: Some do. It depends on your attitude towards anonymity. Politicians, businessmen, nuclear scientists and laborers can be Anonymous.
Q: So you probably don’t have a club in Prague?
A: No, but there are a lot of interesting clubs that Anonymous likes to visit.
Q: How does Anonymous view current attempts to “tame” the Internet?
A: The American SOPA, PIPA and ACTA laws and similar agreements which are being prepared pose a great danger to the freedom of the Internet, but not to Anonymous. ACTA is presented as protection for authors and a defense against counterfeiting, nevertheless its mechanisms are unbelievably dangerous because they enable spying, disconnecting users from the Internet and introduces a dangerous precedent whereby users can be prosecuted for trivialities like providing a link to a film download. Such a thing is simply mad.
These laws are not thought through and allow for a great number of interpretations, so in the end the decisive factor in court will be just the skill of lawyers. And who has the most skillful lawyers? The large corporations. The common man wouldn’t have a chance. In this case society must decide whether or it not it wants a censured internet. There are only two choices: “yes” or “no”. Anonymous thinks the internet should not be censured.
Q: Some experts and media are talking about the beginning of the first great cyber war because of it. Do you see the situation similarly?
A: Definitely. Governments and banks haven’t given Anonymous any other choice. The cyber war has begun and will continue. We’ll see what it will bring, but one thing’s for certain: Anonymous has a head start. Not in technical terms, but thanks to decentralization.
Anyone can be Anonymous, including administrators of governmental or military servers. Right now Anonymous is a symbol of resistance and the fight for freedom. Society is beginning to divide into those who are in favor of restrictions and limitations, and those who are for freedom and sharing. The fight for the freedom of the Internet has begun.
Q: How are relations between Anonymous and the Czech Pirate Party?
A: The Pirate Party is a political entity which has functioned in the Czech Republic since some time in 2009; it has established a profile and its program is developing. Anonymous is an international collective of free thinkers. Of course, given that the pirates fight against censorship, it’s logical there will be some sort of crossover. If some operation is announced [by Anonymous], many people can agree with it, and in our country those many can also include members of the Czech Pirate Party who help spread information about Anonymous. But with the Pirate Party and Anonymous, it’s definitely not like the ties between the Greens and Greenpeace. It’s about the two camps: freedom and restriction. The Pirates are striving for freedom. Nevertheless, it’s not out of the question that Anonymous could at one point fight side by side with the pirates.
Q: Critics say that young people may call it a fight for freedom of the Internet, but what they really want is to steal films unpunished.
A: I must have heard this argument about a thousand times and it’s not true. The people who write such similar tenacious nonsense should find out more about the issues. If a precedent is introduced which enables censorship of the Internet, governments will try and test out everything else that people might put up with and our freedoms will gradually be eroded.
It’s not about being able to download films. Of course it will be possible to continue downloading films, and therein lays one of the shortcomings of the treaties. It will not be possible to implement the treaties and laws if they’re not accepted by powerful nations such as Russia and China; the US doesn’t have the means to coerce them to do so. If it won’t be possible to download from Megaupload, people will download from Russian sites.
Q: In the newspapers and on the Internet many headlines have appeared along the lines ‘Anonymous: should we be worried about our bank accounts?’ Is public concern about Anonymous warranted?
A: The public should not fear the organization. Nevertheless it could be paralyzed by Anonymous. If Anonymous blocks the government web pages or causes chaos by stealing data from them and then publishing it, society could in some way be affected. But it wouldn’t be an act aimed against society. Quite the opposite, it would be an act which should support society. Anonymous is society’s ally. Anonymous is part of society.