A video threatening the Minneapolis Police Department was posted Friday on Facebook and went viral. The threats, which have been very successful on social networks, have not yet been acted upon.
All it took was a video to remind people of their existence. On Friday, May 29th, a Facebook account held by people posing as members of Anonymous posted a four minute video, in which they send a message to the police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The video begins with the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died when he was stopped by Minneapolis police on Monday, May 25. Since then, the United States has been rocked by numerous protests demanding justice for George Floyd and denouncing police violence.
It is in this context that an unidentifiable person has once again appeared online, using Anonymous media codes and portraying violence as inherent to the Minneapolis police. “You may have fired those officers to save face, but it is clear that this kind of behavior is condoned, if not encouraged, within your department, as it is in others,” the distorted voice says, before ending with a threat: “We don’t trust your corrupt organization when it comes to carrying out justice. So we will show the world your many crimes. »
We find in this video the usual symbols of Anonymous: the logos, the visual of a man in a suit whose face is replaced by a question mark, the mask of Guy Fawkes (popularized by the comic strip and the movie V Pour Vendetta), but also the distorted and robotic voice, and the threatening “We are legion, expect us” in conclusion.
The original video has already been seen more than three million times. And that’s not counting the countless Facebook, Twitter and YouTube replays – Anonymous was one of the most discussed topics of the weekend on Twitter.
“Historical Links with Black Lives Matter”
“This is the biggest resurgence of Anonymous that I’ve seen. It’s crazy,” commented, for the specialized site Motherboard Mustafa Al-Bassam, a security researcher who, years ago, was involved with Anonymous and its spin-off group LulzSec (to the point of being convicted of computer attacks).
While the movement never really disappeared, we have to go back to 2014 to find evidence of a similar craze. And there was already talk of police violence in the United States. Shortly after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, claimed members of the Anonymous Nebula had taken an active activist role in denouncing the authorities – but sometimes publishing false information, a method of action that was then denounced.
“Historically, Anonymous has been very involved with Black Lives Matter,” explains Gabriella Coleman, an American anthropologist and author of Anonymous: hacker, activist, forger, informer, whistleblower (Lux, 2016).
“At Ferguson, when the protests began, Anonymous was one of the first accounts of what was going on. When Erica Garner [Eric Garner’s daughter and Black Lives Matter figure] died in December 2017, the accountant thanked Anonymous for all the work around Black Lives Matter. There are historical links between the two,” she said.
However, the video posted on May 29th did not come from Anonymous’ historical channels, she noted: the Facebook page that posted it on Friday was previously unknown to her… and many of the accounts that took it up on the Internet are related to K-pop (Korean pop) fans, Gabriella Coleman noted with surprise.
The insane number of RTs for a number of Anonymous announcements and threats today are unlike anything I've seen and struck me as weird. pic.twitter.com/009bUX1axu
— Gabriella “Biella” Coleman (@BiellaColeman) June 1, 2020
So what makes you question the origin of the video? As usual, it is, at the moment, difficult to know who spread the message and then amplified it, and why: Anonymous being a decentralized movement, anyone can claim it, which can lead to confusion about the real motives and identity of the message’s broadcasters.
No other online activities
However, we note that certain practices of the movement did not reappear after the publication of the video: piracy or publication of information, in particular. Gabriella Coleman notes that no police officer has had his personal data hacked and then published, even though the group had become a specialist in this practice a few years ago.
No hacking has been claimed, even though some Internet users have attributed the inaccessibility of the Minneapolis police site, which was discovered on Saturday 30 May, to the Anonymous movement – without any evidence being published on the subject, since the police did not want to comment on the subject to the American press.
In addition, an alleged hack by the Minneapolis Police Department, which has been reported on social networks in recent hours, is unlikely to have occurred recently, according to Troy Hunt, a well-known expert in computer security: the exposed data from Minneapolis police officers was already in the wild after hacking other sites years ago.
“There doesn’t seem to have been much new activity after the video was released,” says Coleman. That’s not to say that the threats will never be acted upon, but, “for now, Anonymous is not back,” she explains – only its media aura.