Anonymous caused an uproar last week when they pulled ahead of everybody else in the TIME 100 poll and claimed first place in the popular vote. There were accusations of the group using botnets to secure their place in history while others just said it was the sheer popularity of the collective that led to their victory. Either way, it was a big win for Anonymous, but today’s win is even bigger.
Anonymous has been inducted into the 2012 TIME 100 as being one of the most influential forces in the world. Some people might argue that the TIME 100 list is for the people who make an influence in the world, not some collective of hackers who take down Web sites for fun.
If this is your thought process, I would caution you to slow down. You’re probably still thinking of the old Anonymous spanwed from 4Chan that would take down Web sites and attack Justin Bieber fans just for the lulz. The Anonymous of today is a simultaneously organized yet disorganized band of hackers, activists and supporters who use the anonymity of the Internet to carry out more than just DDoS attacks.
In the past year, they have had a hand in supporting the Arab Spring, attacking the Vatican and other religious groups, wiretapped the FBI, leaked Stratfor’s files to Wikileaks and even took control of a U.S. railway. To say that Anonymous is not a force of nature in today’s Web ecosystem is either the result of ignorance or a refusal to believe in the power they wield.
While they do have a lot of power, this year also showed that they vulnerable. Many members of LulzSec were arrested after their ring leader betrayed the group to the FBI. Interpol arrested another 25 members in a global sting operation.
These events didn’t stop the group, however, as they seem to be more active than ever. They are involved in multiple operations all over the globe that seek to bring attention to child abuse, the violence in Syria and extradition laws, among others.
This all leads up to what may be Anonymous’ biggest operation yet though. They are now attempting to bring down the Great Firewall of China. While the success of such an operation is still up in the air, just the fact that they’re trying proves they’re still a force to be reckoned with.
You can agree or disagree all you want on whether or not Anonymous deserves to be in the TIME 100, but they have already made their mark on history and will continue to do so. As TIME themselves put it: “Anonymous earned its place on the list, one way or the other.”[h/t: The Inquirer]