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Other Anons were apolitical and sowed chaos for the lulz. In 2007, a local news affiliate in Los Angeles called Anonymous “an Internet hate machine.”In January, 2008, Gawker Media posted a video in which Tom Cruise enthusiastically touted the benefits of Scientology.
One of them posted images on /b/ of what looked like pipe bombs; another threatened to blow up several football stadiums and was arrested by the F. The video was copyright-protected, and the Church of Scientology sent a cease-and-desist letter to Gawker, asking that the video be removed.
“You have nowhere to hide.” Within a few weeks, the You Tube video had been viewed more than two million times. The hackers met in dedicated Internet Relay Chat channels, or I. Anons created a “Google bomb,” so that a search for “dangerous cult” would yield the main Scientology site at the top of the results page.
Others sent hundreds of pizzas to Scientology centers in Europe, and overwhelmed the church’s Los Angeles headquarters with all-black faxes, draining the machines of ink. On March 15, 2008, several thousand Anons marched past Scientology churches in more than a hundred cities, from London to Sydney.
There wasn’t much they could do beyond offering to call 911, but the adventure made them feel heroic.
Small and wiry, with a thick New England accent, Doyon was fascinated by “Star Trek” and Isaac Asimov novels.
While there, he developed an interest in religion and philosophy and took classes from Ball State University. The change, Doyon recalls, “was gigantic—it was the difference between sending up smoke signals and being able to telegraph someone.” Hackers defaced an Indian military Web site with the words “Save Kashmir.” In Serbia, hackers took down an Albanian site. Doyon defended his actions, employing the heightened rhetoric of other “hacktivists.” “We quickly came to understand that the battle to defend Napster was symbolic of the battle to preserve a free internet,” he later wrote. Adama showed Doyon the Web site of the Epilepsy Foundation, on which a link, instead of leading to a discussion forum, triggered a series of flashing colored lights. He asked Adama who would do such a thing.“Ever hear of a group called Anonymous? In 2003, Christopher Poole, a fifteen-year-old insomniac from New York City, launched 4chan, a discussion board where fans of anime could post photographs and snarky comments.
The most shocking of these were posted on a part of the site labelled /b/, whose users called themselves /b/tards.“We have no intention of partaking in intelligent discussions concerning foreign affairs,” he wrote on the site.One of the highest values within the 4chan community was the pursuit of “lulz,” a term derived from the acronym .Anonymous viewed the church’s demands as attempts at censorship.“I think it’s time for /b/ to do something big,” someone posted on 4chan.
Doyon was aware of 4chan, but considered its users “a bunch of stupid little pranksters.” Around 2004, some people on /b/ started referring to “Anonymous” as an independent entity. “It’s not a group,” Mikko Hypponen, a leading computer-security researcher, told me—rather, it could be thought of as a shape-shifting subculture.