Anonymous announced today a joint campaign with the Occupy Movement called “Our Polls,” which targets members of Congress who supported a variety of bills these groups find particularly offensive. Namely: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The groups call on voters to remove all those who supported these bills from office on November 6, election day.
The primary message of the Our Polls effort is that Washington is corrupted by money, and that the politicians who were elected to represent us worry more about the thickness of their wallets than the lives of their constituents.
“We are calling on voters, activists and keyboard warriors under all banners to unite as a single force to unseat the elected representatives who threaten our essential freedoms and who were so quick to minimize our individual constitutional rights for a quick corporate profit,” reads a statement, released on the popular Anonymous-affiliated website, YourAnonNews.
The groups single out all members of Congress who are up for re-election this November, and supported SOPA, PIPA and/or NDAA, .
As many of you likely remember, SOPA and PIPA — a pair of anti-piracy bills in the House and Senate, respectively — were both stopped in their tracks thanks to a mass online blackout on January 18. NDAA, on the other hand, passed with an unnerving provision that technically allows the US military to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely, without trial — even if those suspects are US citizens.
While the concerted Our Polls campaign is new, the collaboration between Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is anything but. In fact, OWS has Anonymous to thank for its early widespread attention. According to Fast Company, Anonymous attempted to launch the first “99 Percent” protest in New York City last March, an event entitled Operation Empire State Rebellion (#OpESR), which only drew a handful of people in Manhattan and other cities in the US. The group was not deterred, however, and prior to the first day of OWS demonstrations on September 17, Anonymous helped spread the word through their variety of well-followed Twitter accounts. (YourAnonNews, for example, has more than 540,000 followers.) And they’ve never stopped since; over the last four and a half months, Anonymous members and supporters have acted in concert with OWS protesters around the world, both online and off.
And this, I believe, is one of the most important facts to remember when talking about Anonymous: The loose-knit group is more political activist movement than hacker legion. While many of the group’s exploits are labeled “hacks,” there is no actual hacking taking place. (Of course, this is not always true.) Instead, most high-profile Anonymous “Operations” involve distributed denial of service (DDoS) “attacks,” which are nothing more than sending too much traffic to websites, thus rendering them temporarily inoperable. Is DDoS disruptive? Of course — but so is a group of 20,000 protesters standing in the middle of a Manhattan street.
Disruption is the point.
The real value (or threat, depending which side you’re on) of Anonymous and OWS is their ability to affect social change. The Our Polls campaign provides an opportunity for these factions to prove their effectiveness. We’ll just have to wait until November 6 to see the results.