In 2007, the hacktivist collective Anonymous was dubbed the “internet hate machine” by Fox News for their trolling campaigns. Six years later, they are the white knights of the digital realm, seeking justice for the now deceased 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, an alleged gang rape victim who killed herself after bullying by her Nova Scotian classmates. This is just one of the collective’s high profile causes in the past week, but in terms of good PR and an agency for change, it compares to their actions on Steubenville.
They call it #OpJustice4Rehtaeh on Twitter, and all types of people – from journalists and teens to women who normally wouldn’t associate with Anonymous – have been spreading Anonymous’ related material in the name of Parsons since Tuesday, after news of her mother turning off her daughter’s life support made global headlines.
The concerned non-Canadians and feminists in faraway places that joined in the online protest don’t consider themselves “hacktivists”, nor are they afraid of the FBI or their peers labeling them as terrorist sympathisers. The spooky criminal portrayal of Anonymous has melted from the public consciousness, to be replaced with an image of strangers in pale masks passionate about improving society, one cause at a time. Since Anonymous causes are varied and inspired by current events, jumping on this form of vigilante-motivated activism – or what some would call clicktivism – has never been more popular. Or as in Parsons’ case, as effective.