'Hacktivist' group Anonymous: Guilty of treason or public vigilante?

"Website hacking" and "social justice" are two terms one doesn't often hear in the same sentence.

Known for hacking government websites and their involvement in the Occupy Wall Street movement, Anonymous has staked out quite the name for itself in recent years, though no one knows who is behind the name.

Its controversial actions have sparked debate over whether what it does should be considered a form of public service in making government documents public or whether it should be looked down upon for its questionable ways of obtaining those documents. Central Michigan University computer science professor Qi Liao addressed the area between.

“Anyway you can destroy the enemy’s defense system is legal,” Liao said, referring to the recent government hacking that has been traced back to Beijing. “We must have some laws to these things."

Recently, the "hacktivist" has shifted its focus to a form of social justice.

For example, in late August, several high school football players allegedly participated in raping and possibly urinating on an underage and unconscious girl during a party. The girl would later reveal that she had no recollection of the night.

The football players made Facebook and Twitter posts about raping the young woman as the events occurred. An attempt was made by the players to delete the posts and videos, but cyber crime stopper Alexandria Goddard made copies of the posts and video and publicized them on her website. Anonymous later leaked the videos on YouTube.

What some in what Anonymous called the "football-crazed town" did in response was criticize Goddard for bringing a bad name to their town and local football team. The city of Steubenville even went as far as blaming what happened on the victim's actions.

Anonymous, having seen these actions as a way to cover up a sexual assault case, went to work. Last month, the group hacked the football team's website and made threats to publicize the names of the entire football team, every coach and school official if a public apology was not given.

The role Anonymous has played in the case has polarized those who have followed it, with some deeming what they have done as a form of vigilantism, while others have viewed it as a cyber group looking for attention.

“I would say (they play a) vigilante (role),” Ruth junior Lisa Volmering said. “If good comes from their actions, maybe it’s not all that bad"


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