Although Anonymous is mostly known for hack attacks that shut down websites and social feeds in Israel, North Korea and even the U.S., the international collective of activist hackers has also proven quite effective at protesting issues and raising awareness. On Friday, Anonymous launched the #opGTMO campaign in solidarity with a White House protest against Guantanamo Bay, and helped the protest become one of most-discussed topics on the Internet.
The #opGTMO protest marked 100 days of a hunger strike by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and supported a movement that began with CODEPINK, ANSWER Coalition, the London Guantanamo Campaign and several more. Activists at the White House wore orange jumpsuits and black hoods to draw attention to what they saw as crimes against humanity committed against the prisoners.
“There are TONS of people who have worked longer, harder on this than [Anonymous],” wrote @AnonyOps, one of the most active Anonymous members during the protest, in a Twitter message. “We’re just providing signal amplification for their efforts and decided to get all the groups organized, talking … and set a date to start getting vocal on the 100th day of the hunger strike.”
Earlier in May, Anonymous released a statement supporting the hunger strike, vowing to take action toward shutting down Guantanamo Bay. Then on Thursday, Anonymous released a “Twitter Storm” package, giving suggestions of tweets for followers to share using #GTMO17. Some examples include:
Eighty-six detainees have been cleared for release or transfer, but efforts to send them home have stalled, making them more desperate. #GTMO17
Medics are force-feeding 23 of the hunger-strikers twice a day via tubes snaked up their nose and into their stomach. #GTMO17
Additionally, Anonymous tweeted the phone number of the White House switchboard and asked followers to call and demand that Guantanamo Bay be closed.
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) May 17, 2013
Similar #opGTMO packages were created for Saturday and Sunday with new sample tweets and updated dates on the hashtags (#GTMO18 and #GTMO19). The goal, according to the Twitter Storm packages, was to “Raise Awareness in social media of the human rights violations going on at Guantanamo, the indefinite detention of prisoners, many of whom have been cleared for release years ago.”
Judging by this measure, #opGTMO has been a rousing success. The #GTMO17 hashtag was the No. 1 worldwide trending topic on Twitter on Friday. On Saturday, #GTMO18 reached No. 1 in U.S. trends and No. 3 worldwide.
With the help of Anonymous, the protest spread beyond the White House to millions of people around the world, showing the extent and influence of the hacker collective. The account signed off on Sunday saying that this campaign is just the beginning.
To those wondering -- This is just the START of #opGTMO. Thanks for tuning in this weekend. We look forward to plenty more action to come.
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) May 19, 2013
This isn’t the first time that Anonymous support has helped political movements gain traction. Anonymous is often credited with spreading the popularity of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Originally from Northern California, Ryan W. Neal came to New York to earn his master's in journalism from Columbia University. He joined IB Times April 2013, and is a writer...