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Anonymous, Their Biggest Hacks and Fear Factor: Should Donald Trump Be Worried Now?

Anonymous is back – that appears to be the verdict on social media platforms. On May 29, Anonymous posted a video message on their Facebook page, issuing a warning to the Minneapolis Police Department for the deliberate killing of George Floyd in USA. Along with that, on its social media platforms, Anonymous sounded the alarm on many public figures, stating that it will disclose proof of severe wrongdoing against these people. The collective has since allegedly taken down the Minneapolis Police Department website, and released documents that appear to prove, among other things, the killing of Princess Diana by the English royal family, and allegations of rape of a 13-year-old by now US president, Donald Trump.

Many new users of the internet, however, may not be well versed with the lore and internet culture stardom that surrounded Anonymous during its formative years, and the subsequent time around its biggest activities on the internet. On this note, we take a look at who Anonymous is, what their biggest achievements have been so far, how their activity dwindled in the recent years, and what their recent message can signify.

Who is Anonymous?

One of, if not the most famous collective of online hackers and hacktivists in the world, Anonymous is a decentralised organisation spread across the world. It is not a formal organisation or company, and is known to not follow a set structure of power or hierarchy. In fact, Anonymous’ members are believed to be spread across the world, and have typically come together under the banner to carry out operations that typically send across a political message.

Anarchy has been a consistent theme of Anonymous’ operations, but its anti-establishment moves have typically received considerable support from the common people, and at times, large chunks of the global media. Prior to making a move, Anonymous has been known to post a video message as a warning against the organisation they target. Their motto, “We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive, we do not forget. Expect us”, became a popular signage of socio-political resistance. Anonymous has typically taken anti-surveillance and anti-censorship stances, even though many have often questioned the real world impact of Anonymous’ activities. Anonymous also popularised the Guy Fawkes mask, a style adopted from V for Vendetta, as part of their identity in both the virtual and the real worlds.

Biggest hacks and achievements

Anonymous’ notable actions began with Project Chanology in 2008, where for a period of about three months, they targeted the Church of Scientology as a retaliation against its corporate entity-like behaviour. In the following years, Anonymous switched to companies targeting copyright preservation, interpreting them as those who restrict free speech. One of the companies they targeted at this time was Aiplex, an Indian software firm that used to host DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks against Torrent sites to prevent piracy of movies.

These actions soon grew to a wider scale, to a point where it was labelled ‘Operation Payback’ by Anonymous. The collective’s targets included various movie and art studios and production houses of America, as well as copyright protection groups. The operation grew through 2009 and 2010, with Anonymous taking down various entities such as the United States Copyright Office, Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft and many others across the world. The objective behind these operations were to open up the internet and restrict stifling of content consumption via copyrights, which in Anonymous’ views were largely arbitrary.

Anonymous also contributed to the cause of Julian Assange, where it became vocal supporters of WikiLeaks. In response to those who attempted to take WikiLeaks down, Anonymous launched cyber operations against many corporate entities, of which PayPal was the biggest affected. Anonymous’ DDoS attacks against PayPal are said to have cost the company over $5 million. Anonymous’ direct attack on those who did not support WikiLeaks caused plenty of noise, revealing private emails and other documents conspiring against Assange.

Anonymous also took on Sony for denying hackers to find flaws in its PlayStation 3 console, compromising over 100 million Sony accounts and taking down PlayStation Network for over a month. The collective has been an active voice against homophobia, racism and child pornography, taking down and exposing various figures in these acts. It has also notably acted against the Ku Klux Klan, revealing details of various KKK members. On an isolated basis, Anonymous has been a sharp actor against numerous national governments, from time to time.

Arrests and downtime

Over the past few years, isolated activities led to arrests of various Anonymous members around the world. These included individuals such as Jake ‘Topiary’ Davis, Hector ‘Sabu’ Monsegur, Barrett Brown and others. Many of Anonymous’ arrests have been linked to their decentralised organisational structure and a lack of unified thought process. Anonymous members have often been known for having diverse, and sometimes sharply different socio-political views, which have reportedly been the reason behind internal indecisions.

Because of the way they operate, Anonymous has been difficult to track down by journalists and law enforcement agencies. In recent times, a number of these reasons coming together is what is believed to have caused a decline in the fear and enigma typically associated with Anonymous. Many also started questioning the efficacy of a collective like Anonymous, and started raising questions in terms of how much power their hacks truly wielded now.

Regeneration?

With protests over the police killing of George Floyd leading to the breakout of riots, Anonymous’ comeback video suggests that certain key members of the group may still be active. The hacking and divulging style shown by Anonymous have so far been uniform with their previous acts, which have led many to believe that serious repercussions will come from the documents that Anonymous is exposing online. Now, only time will tell if Anonymous’ second coming has the impact that many around the world are hoping it does.



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Tech

Mark Zuckerberg is Worried About China’s Influence on The Internet; Many Would Agree With Him

Mark Zuckerberg is Worried About China’s Influence on The Internet; Many Would Agree With Him

Zuckerberg said that the 2018 overhaul of the privacy policy in the EU also meant Facebook had to reform its approach to data privacy around the world.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 9:24 AM IST

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he is worried about the influence China is having in terms of regulating the internet and fears other countries might follow a similar example. In fact, he has urged western countries to counter China’s model with a democratic approach. He says the Chinese approach is “really dangerous”. China’s censorship of content on the internet and the fact that many global tech platforms are banned in the country, including Facebook, is often referred to as ‘The Great Firewall’.

“What I worry about is, right now I think there are emerging two very different frameworks underpinned by very different sets of values,” Zuckerberg said in a livestreamed discussion with EU official Thierry Breton. This is not the first time Zuckerberg has warned about the Chinese influence and the Chinese way of regulating the internet. He said it is the responsibility of the western countries to have a clear data privacy framework in place.

Zuckerberg in fact praised the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which implemented changes for how tech companies and social media platforms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter collect and handle user data in the EU region. He also said that the 2018 overhaul of the privacy policy in the EU also meant Facebook had to reform its approach to data privacy around the world.

In October last year, Zuckerberg had not held back in criticizing TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance. While speaking at the Georgetown University on free speech, he had criticized TikTok for what he called “mentions of these protests are censored, even in the U.S.” referring to the censorship around the anti-China or pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. “Just to be blunt about it, I think there is a model coming out of countries like China that tend to have very different values than Western countries that are more democratic,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook only recently got a 20-member oversight board which has the power to correct or overrule the social media platform’s content moderation policies, including instances of hate speech and misinformation, if it feels the need to do so. The board will start hearing cases later this summer.




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Facebook Messenger Rooms For Video Calls is Now Available to Everyone; Should Zoom be Worried?

Facebook Messenger Rooms For Video Calls is Now Available to Everyone; Should Zoom be Worried?

At this time, Facebook Messenger Rooms will be competing for attention and video meeting hours with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Meet, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp and Google Duo, each of those being used for personal as well as work meetings.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 15, 2020, 8:56 AM IST

Facebook Messenger Rooms is now rolling out to all users around the world. It is available in desktop and mobile, and the global rollout will surely add some spice to the already very competitive video calls and video meetings app space. Messenger Rooms’ party piece is the fact that it allows up to 50 people in one group video chat, can be accessed via Facebook or Messenger apps and desktop versions and remains free of charge to use. However, do note that globally, users can create new Rooms via the Messenger app for the time being, while users in the US can create a room from Facebook.

Facebook is also pushing the privacy controls that in play here, something that has been a concern for many since the issues with Zoom brought this aspect to the forefront. Facebook says you can start and share Rooms on Facebook through News Feed, Groups and Events. You may drop by for a Group chat whenever it is convenient for you. There are options that let you control who can see your Rooms group and who is allowed to join your room. You can also remove people from your Room if you don’t like them and the Room group can also be locked so that no one else can join at the time.

Facebook says you must download or update to the latest versions of the Facebook and Messenger apps for Android and iPhone or iPad via the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store respectively, or the Messenger Desktop App for Windows 10 PCs via the Microsoft Store and for Apple Mac devices via the Apple App Store. At this time, Facebook Messenger Rooms will be competing for attention and video meeting hours with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Meet, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp and Google Duo, each of those being used for personal as well as work meetings.




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Worried Chinese Consumers Look up Medical Advice Online Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Image for Representation
(Source: Reuters)

Image for Representation
(Source: Reuters)

Due to the Coronavirus epidemic, Chinese residents are stuck at home under strict quarantine restrictions and use online doctors’ consultation as a last resort.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: February 26, 2020, 3:33 PM IST
  • Edited by: Chhavianshika Singh

Spooked by a sneeze or a cough, Chinese consumers are turning to online consultations in droves for advice about possible coronavirus symptoms, a boon for a fledgeling industry that has struggled to win over customers. Due to the epidemic, hundreds of millions of Chinese are stuck at home due to quarantine restrictions imposed by authorities or companies. Even if not under quarantine, many are too worried to venture for long outside or to visit a hospital for other ailments as they fear they might catch the highly contagious virus. The surge of inquiries has also been driven by healthcare platforms offering some services for free amid the epidemic.

JD Health, an arm of JD.com Inc, has seen its daily volume of respiratory-related online consultations jump by nine times while mental-health consultations have grown five to seven times, according to Xiao Jianbo, the company’s general manager of online healthcare. “Most of the requests I’ve had between the end of January and mid-February were about the coronavirus,” said Liu Yafeng, a doctor who works fulltime for JD Health. “People are so worried even just by a sneeze.”

Such is the state of fretfulness that “Always thinking I’ve been infected by the virus” has become a trending topic with more than 570 million views on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform. Liu said he worked around 12 hours per day from end January to mid-February, but in a positive sign that panic about the epidemic is receding, he is now working eight hours a day. Baidu Inc said its online doctor consultation platform Wenyisheng, which translates to “Ask Doctor”, has been handling around 850,000 free inquiries daily. Of those 400,000 were respiratory-related, around 50 times the level seen a year earlier.

Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd said it exceeded 100,000 consultations a day on Jan. 29 and that some of its respiratory doctors were providing more than 200 consultations daily. It did not provide comparisons with pre-outbreak levels. Online healthcare has long been seen as a promising sector in China, where there is a dearth of doctors and patients often have to travel hundreds of miles to see a specialist.

But the industry had struggled to win over customers and big listed firms like Alibaba Health and Ping An Good Doctor have yet to turn a profit. Compared to other internet services, online healthcare is not used as frequently and does not benefit as much from word of mouth, industry executives say. “Health consultations are very private, so you don’t see a lot of people sharing their healthcare experience with friends or followers on social media,” said JD Health’s Xiao.

The coronavirus has, however, reset expectations with shares in Alibaba Health surging 58% for the year to date while Ping An Good Doctor’s stock has climbed 33 per cent. While analysts say more venture capital funding could soon flow into the sector, some industry veterans warn that the sector has a long way to go. “The outbreak has, in fact, educated the market, but I don’t think China’s online healthcare has really taken off because of this,” said Simon He, founding partner at Shanghai-based Eminence Ventures. That’s only going to happen with innovation in providing more services such as blood tests, he added.

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Bots on Twitter Are Really Worried About Climate Change; Greta Thunberg Will Not be Pleased

A lot of messages denying the effects of global warming might actually have been written by bots as new research from Brown University in the US found that about 25 per cent of the tweets about climate change that they analysed were produced by automated accounts. Bots are non-personal or automated accounts that post content to social media platforms. While the findings of the study are yet to be published, The Guardian newspaper reported them after seeing the draft study.

The results suggest that online conversations about climate change are often distorted due to the activities of the bots. According to a report in the BBC on Saturday, the research team at Brown University analysed 6.5 million tweets from around the time US President Donald Trump revealed his intention to remove the US from the Paris climate accord in 2017. The analysis showed a quarter of tweets on climate change were likely posted by bots. “These findings suggest a substantial impact of mechanized bots in amplifying denials messages about climate change, including support for Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement,” stated the draft study, according to The Guardian.

The study could not identify the people responsible for setting up the bots that were trained to post climate denial messages on Twitter. For the study, the researchers used a tool from Indiana University called Botometer, which uses an algorithm to assign a score to Twitter accounts based upon the likelihood they are automated. The researchers found that only five per cent of tweets advocating action to protect the environment were produced by bots.