How Anonymous decides: inside the lulz-sausage factory

On the heels of the news that the Westoboro Baptist Church attempted to lure sympathizers of the Anonymous movement into attacking it comes this excellent Ars Technica feature by Nate Anderson into the chaotic consensus decision-making inside Anonymous's message-boards. As a loose group without any formal membership requirements or constitution, Anonymous's decisions can be divisive and difficult (which is not to say that formal, constitutional groups have it easy!).

A common complaint was about being sidetracked. Another concluded, "Anonymous, you've decided to go f**k about with trolls rather than helping protestors gain their freedoms. Why, Anonymous?"

A Christian Anon begged his compatriots to ignore Westboro in favor of more important projects. A UK Anon suggested that the group was "being trolled into the sh*t by the religous right."

Other notes went even further, casting doubt on past operations like the recent hack into security firm HBGary. "We have invaded the privacy of corporations, and no matter what other Anons say, the standard behind Anonymous did not agree with the HBGary hit," said one document. "In fact, many of us are waiting for those who were involved in that Operation to be taken in by the law and will not associate with that sort of outlet. Those who are happy with that Operation are nothing more than trolls and we apologize for this as well."

Reading the blizzard of Anonymous notes on the topic of Westboro, one can see the hivemind in action. It's chaotic, often at odds with itself, and open to simple infiltration (several pieces suggested that Westboro may have written the initial "Anonymous" press release just to ignite a war). Leadership is exerted through numbers more than through hierarchy.

Empty suit: the chaotic way Anonymous makes decisions

(Image: Anonymous Declaration of IndepenDance. Wallpaper (3923x4656), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from thinkanonymous's photostream)