Anonymous was founded on the imageboard 4chan in 2003. The hacktivist group is open, and any hacker can apply the Anonymous label for his or her attacks, thus joining the movement.
For the first five years of its existence, it was a little-known, decentralized online community.
In 2006, the group organized the so-called “Habbo raids” on the social networking site Habbo. Hacktivists responded to the news of an Alabama amusement park barring a two-year old toddler infected with AIDS from entering its swimming pool by creating characters dressed in suits that said the pool was “closed due to AIDS,” flooding the site with Internet sayings and forming swastika-like formations. When the hacktivist profiles were removed, they complained of racism.
In December 2006-January 2007, Anonymous took down the website of white supremacist radio talk show host Hal Turner. Turner later unsuccessfully sued 4chan and other websites.
Its popularity soared in recent years, as the group carried out a number of coordinated DDoS attacks against government and corporate websites.
Many of Anonymous’ actions have targeted organizations that they believe promote Internet censorship.
In 2010 the group DDoS-attacked a number of anti-piracy websites as part of Operation Payback, in retaliation against a DDoS attack on torrent sites by piracy opponents.
In 2011 Anonymous organized attacks against a number of government websites worldwide, including those in the US, Tunisia, Israel, Malaysia and Syria.
In January 2012 Anonymous took down the websites of US Department of Justice, the US Copyright Office, the FBI, the MPAA and a handful of others. In February Anonymous announced that it would be attacking “corrupt corporate and government websites” every Friday. Since then, it has also taken down websites of the CIA, Interpol, AIPAC and others.
And corporate and government websites aren’t Anonymous’ only targets. Last year Anonymous hacktivists took down 40 child pornography sites and published the names of over 1,500 people who frequented them as part of Operation Darknet. A number of Anonymous activists also took part in Occupy protests, and expressed their support for the aims of the grassroots movement.
In 2012, Time Magazine named Anonymous as one of the most influential ‘people’ in the world – in results determined by an online vote.