This article is the first in a two-part series tracing the development of the amorphous online community known as Anonymous, pranksters who have become a force in global affairs.
Late in the afternoon of Jan. 19, the U.S. Department of Justice website vanished from the Internet. Anyone attempting to visit it to report a crime or submit a complaint received a message saying the site was unable to load. More websites disappeared in rapid succession. The Recording Industry Association of America. The Motion Picture Association of America. Universal Music. Warner Brothers. The FBI.
By nightfall, most of the sites had come back online, but the people responsible for the outages had made their point. They’d landed what they hailed as the biggest blow yet in an escalating war for control of the Internet, and in one of their online command centers, “Phoenix” and his associates were celebrating.