The mysterious collective of hackers and social crusaders known as Anonymous has become an increasingly visible force for good in recent months – from protecting teenagers from bullies, exposing rapists in a case that puzzled authorities for a year, to going after North Korean websites in an effort to inspire a democratic revolution. Pretty impressive for a loose organization that was still considered as a threat to the well-being of the Internet this time last year. Now, the group is primed to take another step toward legitimacy, raising more than $50,000 to start its own news site.
An IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign set up by the anonymous (of course) “Jackal Anon” finished on Wednesday having raised $54,668. That’s $52,668 higher than its original goal thanks to 1,307 backers to help create a dedicated website hosting news reports, blogs, and longform journalism crafted by “citizen journalists” and other sources as an alternative to traditional news media.
The idea of Anonymous as a news source is hardly new; the group has consistently offered links to breaking stories and commentary via its Twitter and Tumblr feeds. But those accounts came with specific limitations, as the IndieGoGo description for the campaign explained. “Since our humble beginnings as a new account we have always resisted being held to the constraints placed upon mainstream media outlets, but were limited to the tools available to us via Twitter and Tumblr,” Jackal wrote, citing that just aggregating news is not enough. “We haven’t had a space to to provide a proper forum for our many contributors and talented supporters. We love the livestreamers that provide [Your Anon News] with first-hand reporting and the independent journalists whose voices often unheard, but we aren’t supporting them the way we should. We’re here to change that.”
As with all IndieGoGo campaigns, backers were offered rewards for certain levels of funding, including Your Anon News t-shorts, coffee mugs, and other merchandise that felt more contrary to the traditional understanding of Anonymous’ online presence and cultural force. Could this be another sign of a shift for Anonymous as a whole, or just the desire to give something back to those who contributed generously to the fund?
The plan for the new site is to continue to collect the reports currently being distributed via its social media feeds, while adding live feeds for those livestreaming events as they happen, establishing a community for those who follow Your Anon News beyond the current social media interactions. Beyond that, it’s unclear what to expect from the finished product. Part of Anonymous’ MO has previously been that there was no such visible online hub for the group as this, so it will be uncharted waters for everyone involved – both those responsible for the site and those visiting it.