Factions within the Anonymous hacker collective have raised nearly $55,000 though crowd-funding platform indiegogo to establish Your Anon News (YAN), a news agency billing itself as an independent alternative to “corporate media.”
YAN and its fundraising success, however, has also been the cause of a large schism within the collective.
Wildly surpassing an initial funding expectation of $2000, YAN hopes to collect breaking reports and blog postings from the “best independent reporters online.” In addition to YAN’s exisiting, highly followed Twitter and Tumblr accounts, the agency would provide an outlet for activists to stream live events all over the world, potentially granting unprecedented viewer access to global news.
The outlet wouldn't have its own corresponts, but would instead serve as an online hub for activists and “citizen journalists” to reach a wide audience directly. YAN believes traditional media coverage sacrifices important stories for too many trite articles.
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“… Our goal was to disseminate information we viewed as vital, seperating it from the political and celebrity gossip than inundates the mainstream,” read a statement on YAN’s official Tumblr.
It's predictable that followers of traditional media have found YAN's methods controversial. Perhaps more surprising is that YAN's efforts to establish an official news agency has caused a schism between several factions of the Anonymous collective.
“While online activists like @YourAnonNews (YAN) need a way to survive and fund their work, it appears a number of Anons are increasingly worried about traditional media outlets referring to YAN as "Anonymous," as if YAN are the sole representatives of Anonymous,” said Asher Wolf, an Australian journalist and longtime observer of Anonymous and other hacker organizations.
“The centralization of flow of data around YAN, as opposed to a broader array of online accounts, also appears to be worrying a number of Anons. Information is power, or so the saying goes, right?” Wolf added.
Anonymous-branded consolidation of information and resources represents a trend antithetical to the ethos of Anonymous. The nature of Anonymous is one of a collective, a group of sometimes like-minded individuals interacting in an online community, intentionally unstructured.
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As YAN’s influence continues to grow, some fear they are moving dangerously close to becoming a centralized authority with a singular message and agenda — much like traditional media outlets. And more established outlets are already beginning to tacitly accept YAN as a locus of control for Anonymous.
Some agencies refer to YAN’s Twitter feed as the “mouthpiece” for the collective, while others attribute those tweets to Anonymous as a whole.
“Simply put, as an arbitrary Anon, there is no way to gain access to the audience that YourAnonNews has, unless you are on the “side” of the owners — in which case you would probably not need that access in the first place, as your news would likely already have been tweeted by them,” read a blog posted by an individual known as Sven “joepie91” Slootweg, a writer and netizen associated with Anonymous.
Many Anons were also outraged over YAN’s crowd-funding campaign, which offered T-shirts, buttons and coffee mugs to contributors. According to anti-YAN Anons, those funds would be better spent in the defense of Anons serving time in jail for their online exploits.
“If you truly live by the creed that Anonymous does not forgive and does not forget, then maybe instead of getting a coffee mug and t-shirt, you can show that you don't forget about those Anons that have sacrificed everything for the ideals that that logo was built upon,” read a statement released by anti-YAN Anons.
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Representing an ideological shift and a new power base, the fight over YAN within the collective could potentially codify an Anonymous dogma for a community that originally rallied around an ability to defy definition.
“YourAnonNews has a lot of nodes of information right at their fingertips: around a million Twitter followers, I believe? And when they make statements, a lot of people take it as gospel. And that can be problematic, because Anonymous is not unanimous,” said Asher Wolf.