Anonymous hackers to launch mystery social network

Spurned by Google+, the infamous "hacktivists" are developing a no-holds-barred alternative

By Peter Finocchiaro
Published July 18, 2011 7:19PM (EDT)

The faceless hive-mind Anonymous, responsible for attacks on some of the world's preeminent companies, has now set its sights on the Internet's biggest name: Google. And its strategy takes a left turn from its modus operandi, branching the group into territory traditionally reserved for enterprising Silicon Valley start-ups.

Here's the story: Over the weekend, several Anonymous members were banished from the Mountain View search giant's buzzy new social network, Google+, apparently because content they hosted on their accounts violated the service's community standards. You might expect that the Web marauders -- responsible as they have been for high-profile hacks of Visa, Amazon, Pay Pal and, most recently, the U.S. military -- would retaliate with a full-out assault on Google. That isn't the case, though. Instead, they've decided to fight fire with fire. They're aligning with another organization called Presstorm to start their own social network: AnonPlus.

Anonymous has made very clear its motivations and intentions in launching a so-called rival to the Facebooks and Google-pluses of the world: "freedom." While it's uncertain what offending content might have triggered the group's mass expulsion from Google, YourAnonNews, one of the accounts specifically deleted, posted an entry to its Tumblr claiming it and others were guilty merely of "walk[ing] to the beat of a different drum." This is part of a growing trend, the group claims -- all but invoking Egypt's clampdown on social media earlier this year -- where governments silence opposition voices on the Internet: "We've all heard the stories of activists being banned from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and governments blocking their people from these sites as well through organised black outs. That day has came [sic] to an end."

One of the group's credos is its belligerent defense of free speech, and AnonPlus will apparently live and die based on the promise of unmitigated freedom to do exactly as you wish:

This is one social network that will not tolerate being shut down, censored, or oppressed[...]We the people have had enough…enough of governments and corporations saying what’s best for us - what’s safe for our minds. The sheep era is over. The interwebz are no longer your prison."

But what might the nascent social network look like? Anonymous has already launched a placeholder Web page with a short manifesto that declares, in typical Anonymous fashion, the service's grandiose ambitions. But, as for its precise shape and form, we know very little. (The page does include a link to a message board where contributors can suggest directions for the design of the network, though it appears to be down, at the time of this writing.) The site makes clear that the network will be open to any and all, not just Anonymous members, once it goes live.

All things considered, much about AnonPlus is still shrouded in mystery. But, we can say one thing for certain: If the new network is anything like Anonymous' rumored birthplace at 4Chan -- the raucous, profane, anarchic, juvenile and (most of all) terrifying message board, called in at least one famous assessment the "[unseemly orifice] of the Internet" -- you'd better be prepared before visiting.

Peter Finocchiaro

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