Is the hacker group Anonymous a bunch of online troublemakers or digital heroes?
As it attempts to shake off ambiguity around its reputation, Anonymous has revamped its image to become "the white knights of the digital realm" by wading into the case of bullied Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons, according to Fruzsina Eordogh of The Guardian.
Last week, the hacker group released what it claimed was incriminating evidence about those involved in the alleged rape and bullying that led to Parsons's death after she attempted suicide. And Anonymous organized a rally on Sunday, protesting the authorities' handling of the case.
Although police have said their decision to reopen their investigation of the case was not based on Anonymous's information, the group has played a significant role in the call for justice for Parsons.
As Eordogh writes, even people who would not have normally associated with the likes of Anonymous have been spreading its material online using the Twitter hashtag #OpJustice4Rehtaeh.
"The spooky criminal portrayal of Anonymous has melted from the public consciousness, to be replaced with an image of strangers in pale masks passionate about improving society one cause at a time," Eordogh says.
It was not so long that Anonymous's online vigilantism backfired. As Maclean's points out, Anonymous accused the wrong man last year of tormenting Port Coquitlam, B.C.. teen Amanda Todd. The release of his identity provoked death threats against him.
But not only does Anonymous seem to have learned from that error (the group has said it will not identify the individuals who allegedly raped Parsons, at the request of Parsons's family), it has proved itself to be "a much more sophisticated, socially conscious, breed of Anonymous," Emma Teitel of Maclean's wrote.
Is vigilantism okay if it is backed by the public?