It's a powerful film, but the hacktivist organization still deserves more scrutiny.
I got a chance to see We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists recently. It's a great film and in 90 minutes packs in plenty of interviews with Anonymous activists and experts, putting Anonymous in a broader context of Internet culture, protest movements, and hacktivism.
The film is particularly good on how Anonymous became politicized, how
the movement (for want of a better word) went from pranking to taking on
the Scientologists through to supporting WikiLeaks and helping out
Tunisian revolutionaries. There is plenty of nuance here and the film
rightly portrays Anonymous as a multifaceted and diverse movement that's
hard to pin down -- it covers, for example, the splits between the
so-called moralfags and hatefags, between those Anons who wanted to do
good versus those who just wanted to wreak havoc.
Where the film is less good is when the director, Brian Knappenberger, seems to be too enamored with his subject. Many of the Anons interviewed in the film speak a lot about "freedom" -- an inoffensive mix of John Perry Barlow, Occupy, and the Arab Spring. "Their [the government's] opinion no longer mattered because someone was out on the Internet kicking ass," says one of them, Mercedes Haefer, who could face up to 15 years in jail for her alleged role in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on PayPal. You won't find too many people disagreeing with the notion of holding governments and corporations more accountable.
Yet, the problem is that Knappenberger never really attempts to unpack or challenge these sentiments. What exactly do they stand for? What do they hope to achieve? Like the film's soundtrack, Anons talking in grandoise terms about freedom gives a seductive and intoxicating sense that something truly momentous is happening, but ultimately, when left unchallenged, it all ends up sounding a little empty.