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A notable hacking collective that gained notoriety through television and films, Anonymous came into the limelight with its larger-than-life cyber-attacks. The group has successfully infiltrated several top security organizations, including the famous #OpSony attack, where it hacked several websites on the Sony Network and crashed PlayStation Network. The infamous “Project Chanology” attack by Anonymous in 2008, which brought down the websites of the Church of Scientology, is another incident that still gives the chills.
Based on the principles of social justice and equality, Anonymous, as an organization, has nurtured into a force of perseverance. This powerful group aids people wronged by the system, governments, and politics. However, its underrated influence was catching pedophiles and punishing those responsible for child pornography, which started with a project named “Operation Child Safety.”
Anonymous takes on the wrongdoers
One of the virtues that Anonymous focuses on is being brave and honest. In several situations, the organization didn’t hesitate to square off against influential people and major corporations. The hacker group has previously warned China against Taiwan’s invasion. Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Anonymous warned Beijing to “not try anything stupid against Taiwan.” They hacked Chengdu’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) website as its first line of threat.
Similarly, the organization warned Elon Musk after his recent tweets on cryptocurrencies. A video the group shared on Twitter criticizes Tesla’s CEO for having crushed the ambitions of thousands of people. The Tweet comes after Elon became an influential figure in the cryptocurrency market. His Tweets impacted the prices of crypto coins, which inadvertently fluctuated the prices of real-world things.
Towards the end of the video, the person wearing a Fawkes mask said in an altered voice, “You may think you are the smartest person in the room, but now you have met your match. We are Anonymous! We are legion. Expect us.”
Anonymous Operation Child Safety
Anonymous works as a decentralized hacker group with an obscure hierarchy, mostly completing missions without a proper head or a trail that authorities can follow. In 2014, the hacker collective started “Operation Pedophile Hunt,” also known as “OpPedoHunt,” and “Anonymous Operation Child Safety,” aimed at people involved in child pornography.
Cybersecurity specialist, Ryan Miller, had the opportunity to talk with an Anonymous named “P3SH”. During the conversation, the hacker shared some insights into the “OpPedoHunt,” and how it starts with a simple email. He also shared that hundreds of people are involved in hunting down pedophiles, and hackers are a part of several groups from where they operate silently and pursue offenders. These groups thrive on social media platforms like Facebook and do live streams catching pedophiles trying to meet young children.
Operation Child Safety starts by finding social media accounts associated with the distribution or requirement of child pornography. Though it is a long process, “If you know what to look for, you can find offenders on nearly all social media platforms,” said P3SH. He also shared how hunters find contacts of pedophiles and said, “On Twitter, targets will sometimes post their WhatsApp numbers, Kik, gab, etc., and that’s maybe all they are posting, but when checking them on other platforms, we may find the child pornography there, so more or less it’s investigating.”
How do social media platforms become a playground for child pornography?
Social media platforms, like Reddit, and Twitter, have sections that still promote/allow adult content. Although child pornography has decreased over the years, P3SH informed Miller that he had been added to an adult Twitter group where numerous fake profiles actively distributed child pornographic links. The hunters reported over 31 accounts to the Twitter Safety account in two hours. Additionally, over 72 accounts were flagged for disseminating child pornography on WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter in just 24 hours.
Adult content is still available on social networking sites like Twitter for anybody to access, regardless of age. For instance, users can access pornographic content by simply adjusting a few privacy or filter settings, raising the question of whether these platforms are appropriate for minors. Additionally, parents barely monitor or keep up with their children’s social media accounts, leaving the child more vulnerable to pedophiles.
How laws limit Anonymous and Operation Child Safety groups?
In the latter half of the interview, P3SH explained that hackers do not use illegal methods to obtain information about the offenders. The OpChildSafety organization forbids hunters from intimidating and invading offenders’ privacy. However, law enforcement officials single out hunters because they pursue pedophiles without endangering anyone.
The police have retaliated against them in one of their campaigns in the UK because they have been instructed to find pedophile-hunting groups. According to an article by The Times, police have been told to track down pedophile-hunting vigilantes since their number rose to over 75.
Moreover, the post also shared a glimpse inside the internet guides given to detectives, stating that they investigate any potential hunter or anyone who tries to accuse other people of grooming children in the area.
However, the group seems to work toward taking down pedophiles and stopping child pornography at all costs. Additionally, Anonymous works to safeguard children. It claims that pedophile, zoophilia, and human trafficking are among the things they are working to combat. Still, locating children in these circumstances is challenging and even more difficult to provide evidence on social media.