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Anonymous' Latest Target: Itself

It appears that the hacktivists at Anonymous are struggling to cope with the group's expansion. The list of organizations, companies and individuals targeted by the collective has started to grow out of control. That's mainly due to its decentralized nature, allowing any member to pick a target so long as they can rally the troops to the cause. This has not only led to the group's efforts being increasingly scattered and less effective, but it has caused a rift between members, as well.

Many members of Anonymous simply do it for the "lulz," while others act out of moral and political imperatives (the latter often called "moralfags"). Some of those who focus on using the power of digital activism to defend freedom of speech, human rights, democracy and transparency broke off to form Magnanimous, a splinter group that focuses purely on social and political causes. Other members of Anonymous did not take kindly to this division of efforts -- subsequently attacking the Magnanimous blog, and hijacking the Twitter account of its leader, AntiVigilante.

Even members who have not defected are taking part in the infighting -- several questioning the motives behind the failed attack this weekend on the website of Angel Soft toilet paper, a company owned (through a maze of subsidiaries) by the Tea Party activist Koch brothers. The group was unable to take down the site -- a stunning failure, considering that Anonymous has previously shut down the RIAA, MPAA, U.S. Copyright Office, MasterCard, Sony and the Yemeni government. The bottom-up organization and decentralized nature that made the group both compelling and powerful in its early days is becoming more of an obstacle as it gains notoriety and members.

Some are now actively trying to quell the chaos by establishing a system for vetting press releases (which can currently be published by any member of the group without approval) and voting on targets. Of course, this runs counter to Anonymous's founding principles, and will likely face stiff opposition from some of its more anarchist-leaning members. This is an important moment for the group, which now must figure out how to handle its growing membership and profile without completely abandoning its principles.

Tags: angel soft, AngelSoft, anonymous, hacktivists, koch brothers, KochBrothers, magnanimous, top, web