Legionnaires of chaos: “Anonymous” and governmental oversight of the internet

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


As the Internet gained dominance as a part of the everyday physical world, so did the governmental oversight of the online sphere. Rather than a disconnected cyberspace of disembodied personas, as portrayed in early days, the Internet—and more so the Web—became a crucial component of commerce, governance, and media. Power structures around the world have responded to this growing importance by reducing the tolerable margins of " devious " Internet behavior. This is done via legislation and oversight implemented by governmental and regulatory structures. This chapter aims to describe this phenomenon through a particular case study of " Anonymous, " a leaderless, shapeless, online gathering, which emerged from idiosyncratic web culture and became an actor in global politics. By using Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as a methodological framework, I examine Anonymous and the influence it exerts on user control online. This chapter first discusses the affordances of ANT in understanding distributed networks like Anonymous. Then, I offer a brief discussion of hackers and their traditional role online, while suggesting that despite their public image, governments and corporations have in fact enjoyed a cordial relation with this subculture over the years. I then describe Anonymous first as a web collective and then as a quasipolitical organization. I show how, despite its reputation, Anonymous does not constitute hackers in the traditional sense of the word, and how this fact underlines its relations with the authorities. Later, I discuss how the convergences of the offline world with the online, together with the discussed unique characteristics of Anonymous, position it as a threat in the eyes of governments worldwide. My aim is to show how a multitude of varying factors has led to increased resistance to Anonymous because it is not composed of hackers and how it may, in fact, contribute to the limiting of user control online rather than empowering it.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationDigital Ethics Research and Practice
EditorsDon Heider, Adrienne L. Massanari
Place of PublicationNY
PublisherPeter Lang
ISBN (Print) 9781433118951
StatePublished - 2012

Publication series

Name Digital Formations
PublisherPeter Lang


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