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In about two weeks I will attend the 63rd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association to present a paper on the organizational identity of the hacker collective “Anonymous” (see also “Anonymous’ Boundaries: Expelling by Exposing“), which I have written together with Dennis Schoeneborn. The key the empirical puzzle in this case is how the organizational identity of Anonymous is constructed given the fact that individual membership is largely invisible.


Logo of YourAnonNews on Twitter

One of our findings is that Anonymous largely relies on the credibility of communication channels as a functional equivalent and substitute to member-based identity formation. Several Twitter accounts, Facebook pages or Tumblr blogs are controlled by members of Anonymous (“Anons”). Some of these accounts such as the YourAnonNews with over 1.1 million followers on Twitter or the OffiziellAnonymous Facebook page with over 1.2 million fans are able to reach large audiences.

The credibility of these communication channels depends on their respective communication history. Those accounts that have accurately announced – if not initiated – Anonymous activities gain credibility and thus the power to speak more or less on behalf of Anonymous.

The centrality of credible communication channels for the identity of Anonymous has recently been underscored by the first Anonymous crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The goal of the initiative: fund a new home for the communication channel YourAnonNews (YAN), which is currently hosted at Tumblr: Read the rest of this entry »

In preparation for an upcoming workshop on “organization as communication“, I have engaged more deeply with the phenomenon of Anonymous (see also “Anonymous Attacks German Collecting Society GEMA“). Specifically, I am interested in questions such as how to theoretically grasp this online “collective” and how its organizational identity and boundaries are created and (re-)produced.

In this regard, those incidents are of particular interest, where the attribution to Anonymous is contested. In August 2011, for example, a group claiming to be part of the hacktivist collective declared a “war on facebook”, which was soon countered by another Anonymous activist via twitter, stating that “#OpFacebook is being organised by some Anons. This does not necessarily mean that all of #Anonymous agrees with it.” (see Washington Post). In November 2011, when the takedown of facebook was supposed to happen, activists of Anonymous even exposed the originator of the threat to demonstrate that “#OpFacebook” was in fact not supported by Anonymous, as cnet reported:

“One skiddy queer chap named Anthony [last name redacted] from the US in Ohio decided to take it upon himself to have some lulz with creating an imaginary opfacebook and pawning it off as a legit anon op,” the statement said. “Despite us telling this mate several times we did not support his op, he continued to push his agenda for lulz. This op is phony but he continues to say it’s an anon op.”

In other words: Anonymous decided to expel wannabe activists by lifting the veil of anonymity and exposing their identity to the public. In a way, expelling by exposing is the logical boundary practice of an organized informality under the lablel “Anonymous.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
May 2023

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