Anonymous Hackers Find A Free-Speech Hero In Trump

#OpTrump, meet the other Anonymous

(Photo Illustration: Diana Quach)
Mar 19, 2016 at 12:52 PM ET

You might have heard that Anonymous is waging a full-out war against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but don’t believe the hype—and not just because the so-called private information they released on him Thursday, including what’s allegedly his social security number, has been available on the internet for years. While many members of Anonymous use the hashtag #OpTrump to promote an anti-Trump agenda, a small but vocal group of individuals claiming Anonymous affiliation has come out in support of the controversial candidate. 

The self-assigned designation of “Anonymous” is a big tent. Technically, anyone can change their avatar to a Guy Fawkes mask, the symbol of the hacktivist group, and call themselves a member on social media. And among this loose collective of members are, apparently, a number of Donald Trump supporters.

That might seem like blasphemy to many of the Anonymous-themed Twitter accounts, many with hundreds of thousands of followers, which have rallied against the real estate mogul. Citing his divisive comments about women, Mexicans and Muslims, the loudest Anonymous voices have called for fellow hacktivists to hack Trump and disrupt his campaign.

But speaking to a far smaller audience, a number of self-proclaimed members of Anonymous who like Trump say hacking the former reality TV star for his political views is muzzling free speech, a cardinal sin against the loose hacktivist ethos.

“There are two types of Anons in America. The liberal Occupy ones and the conservative libertarian Anons,” an administrator of Anonymous Patriots, a pro-Trump Facebook page with thousands of earnest followers, told Vocativ in a Facebook chat. He requested to remain anonymous. 

The administrator even made a proper Anonymous-style operation video, which he dubbed “#OpFreespeech.”

While the Anonymous Patriots’ video stops short of outright endorsing Trump—instead speaking generally about the need to protect Trump’s free speech—the personal views of the group’s administrator are clearer. “Our economy is going to crash. We believe he is the only one who can weed out the over-spending,” he said. “Also we need to fix our military and I believe he will fix our VA, and make free trade into Fair Trade.” Other administrators of the Anonymous Patriots group have posted public messages of support for Trump on their personal Facebook profiles. 

Another self-proclaimed longtime member of Anonymous, who declined to share his pseudonym, said he enjoys posting to Anonymous anti-Trump chatrooms to “slowly distract them, enrage them” with messages of Trump support. He told Vocativ that he views Trump as an uncompromised candidate. “I believe that as POTUS he will do what he thinks is right, and no[t] have to cater to the needs of special groups (self funded),” he said over Twitter direct message.

He added that the Anonymous movement has largely strayed from the ideology that first attracted him, and has become less of a hacktivist movement and more of mouthpiece for certain liberal viewpoints. “Anon started to fight the oppression of freedom of speech and believe[d] in data transparency to discourage corruption,” he said. “Since opening its doors [it has become] mostly kids that want to be a hacker because it’s cool or foreigners who hate America for their own reasons.”

While this faction of Anonymous is notably less active on Twitter than their anti-Trump peers, Trump-supporting Anonymous is still prominent on Facebook. Anonymous Florida openly supports Trump, as does Anonymous of Kentucky. And a separate YouTube account—it’s not immediately clear who’s behind it—has started making slick Anonymous videos explicitly calling for Trump’s election so that America can best deal with the Muslim world.

Of course, none of this means that Anonymous as whole is secretly pro-Trump. It just means Anonymous affiliation has become a diluted-enough brand that people anywhere on the political spectrum can see themselves in it.

“We have not stopped Trump in any way from speaking his mind, we’ve just chosen not to listen to it,” one of the administrators of @TheAnonMessage, an Anonymous- and #OpTrump-affiliated Twitter account, told Vocativ via Twitter direct message. On Thursday this account shared Trump’s purported social security number and cellphone number with its 128,000 followers. “Anyone can be Anonymous, but you have to also remember that Anonymous is a hive mind. Usually the majority will have a more vocal viewpoint.”