For some, they're the world's most venal perpetrators of cyber-terrorism. For others, they're the poster group for the latest evolution in political and social activism. They call themselves Anonymous - a collective of hackers whose substantial skills allow them entry into the most secured levels of computerized data. They exist in the shadows, but there are few across the globe who aren't aware of their exploits. The documentary How Hackers Changed the World seeks to unmask these digital outlaws, and explores the ways in which they can serve as both an advocate for the public good and a sinister threat to the world's security structures.
It started in the dorm rooms of MIT as a new breed of online pranking. Crafty college kids created memes and cultivated the concept of trolling for cheap laughs. Their off color pranks quickly seeped into the culture at large, and changed the tone of online communications for many every day users. They thrived on targeting those who were most easily offended.
It wasn't long before their pranks took on a larger and more meaningful significance. Public purveyors of hate and discrimination - such as neo-Nazi podcast host Hal Turner - became the central target of the group's ire, and their attempts to undermine their platforms proved hugely successful.
Today, Anonymous has become nothing short of a worldwide movement. Media conglomerates, prominent figures of influence, government agencies and even terrorist groups like ISIS have become the central focus of their discrediting and public shaming campaigns. Their name alone strikes fear in those who disdain exposure. Like any successful anarchist throughout history, they represent a compelling and resourceful threat to the all-powerful elites. But what is the ultimate cost of their actions?
With great power comes great responsibility. Clear-eyed in tone and frank in its use of harsh language, How Hackers Changed the World recognizes the group's influence as a force for good, but also its potential for inciting a chaos that is anything but constructive. This double-edged sword is complimented by insights from some of the organizations most ardent followers and harshest critics.