FDL Movie Night: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
Love them, hate them, fear them, mock them…however you feel about Anonymous, the notorious hacktivists, you can’t deny that they have changed things. From rickrolling, chocolate rain, and looooong cat to directed denials of service, defacing government websites around the world and exposing the names of millions of corporate customers online, Anonymous is a chaotic force for — well for lots of things. For teh lulz and for the win.
We Are Legion is written, directed, and produced by Brian Knappenberger. It explains the history of Anonymous (as clearly as one can), tracing their roots in early hacking culture through the 4Chan bulletin boards, out of the basements and into the streets with the eruption of Project Chanology, Anonymous’ actions against Scientology’s abuses. They empowered hundreds of Scientologists to leave the organization and speak up, while exposing the corruption within the organization and making it safe for mainstream media to report on Scientology without fear of reprisals or threats of lawsuits.
From Chanology, Anonymous — or rather various clusters of Anonymous activists — focused their energies on shutting down the websites of Mastercard, PayPal and Amazon when those entities stopped processing payments to aid in the defense of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Further actions followed in Tunisia and Egypt (as well as Iran, though that is not mentioned in the film), aiding citizens from those countries in freedom from oppressive regimes. The actions in Egypt were especially impressive, as Anons provided first aid tips and guides on how to survive tear gassing. They also helped people set up dial up modems in order to access the internet after Mubarak shut it down.
The film is full of interviews with Anons (masked and unmasked, some of whom have done, or are facing, time behind bars for their computer acts of protest), academics, attorneys and journalists. Even disgraced HBGary executive Aaron Barr makes an appearance, who got pwned massively by Anonymous when he tried to game social media in order to bring them down. We Are Legion raises questions about how and why we protest, free speech, privacy, and individual freedom.
The filmmakers got an amazing amount of cooperation from seminal members of Anonymous as well as other noteworthy commentators on the age of the hactivist. It provides a provocative glimpse at the vital and irrepressible energy of the people who continue to change the world, regardless of how hard the powers that be seek to shut them down.