Mogelijk virtueel geluid bij World Matchplay zonder publiek

De PDC onderzoekt de mogelijkheden om toch sfeer toe te voegen aan de World Matchplay, mocht het toernooi zonder publiek gespeeld gaan worden. PDC-directeur Matt Porter is momenteel in gesprek met Sky en bevestigt dat er al een aantal innovatieve ideeën de revue hebben gepasseerd.
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How Trump’s mail voting sabotage could result in an election night nightmare
President Trump outside the White House on August 9. | Samuel Corum/Getty Images Trump’s attacks on mail voting and the political calculus behind them, explained. Imagine this election night scenario: With a decisive number of mail ballots yet to be tallied, President Donald Trump enjoys a narrow lead over Joe Biden. But before all the votes can be counted — a process that could take days — Trump declares victory, citing purported irregularities with mail-in votes. You can even picture Trump insisting that the preliminary election night tally must stand as final with a tweet that reads similarly to this one he posted in November 2018, when Florida’s US Senate and gubernatorial elections were still undecided: The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2018 It might be hard to fathom that sort of authoritarian power grab happening here in the United States, but it’s a scenario that election experts are worried about. “That is my nightmare scenario,” said Paul Gronke, professor of political science at Reed College in Portland and director of the Early Voting Information Center. “We gotta slow down. Trump’s gonna be tweeting, the media, you, all of your counterparts, have to slow down. Because he’ll claim victory, or he’ll start to claim malfeasance and fraud, lawyers will be climbing into airplanes and arriving in all these small jurisdictions, and it will be not good.” Gronke’s concern was echoed by Ari Berman, a senior reporter at Mother Jones and author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. “Trump is still trying to tell his voters that they should vote in person, and Democrats are telling their voters that they should vote by mail,” Berman said. “And mail ballots take longer to count then in-person ballots. So you could very much have a situation where the initial returns make it seems like Republicans are way up, because the mail ballots that are largely cast by Democrats haven’t been counted yet.” “If you had a situation where Republicans are up and Democrats take the lead based on mail ballots, even if that’s a totally normal situation, Trump is absolutely going to try to weaponize that, and claim it’s evidence of some sort of voter fraud or rigged election,” he warned. Winners, of course, don’t usually whine about the rules while a contest is ongoing. But Trump has been trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in polls for months. And with the interlocking public health and economic crises stemming from the coronavirus not trending in a positive direction, using the levers of state power to delegitimize election results would be a desperation play. “You know, you could have a case where this election won’t be decided on the evening of November 3,” Trump told Axios’s Jonathan Swan in an interview that aired on HBO last week. Asked why that’s a problem — after all, there’s no rule that elections have to be decided on election night — Trump said, “lots of things will happen during that period of time; especially when you have tight margins, lots of things going to happen.” Then, during a media availability on Sunday, Trump claimed that Democrats are using mail ballots to try and “steal an election.” Trump is preemptively laying the groundwork to challenge a loss to Joe Biden by accusing the Democrats of trying to "steal an election" with mail voting— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 10, 2020 Experts worry that — as is so often the case with Trump — those comments are actually projection. Despite what Trump would have you believe, mail-in election fraud isn’t really a thing Since the coronavirus pandemic began to seriously disrupt American life in March, Trump has been conspiracy-mongering about mail voting, tweeting things like it’ll result in a “CORRUPT ELECTION” and the “SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES.” In a remarkable July 30 tweet, Trump went as far as to suggest that the election should be delayed until people can safely vote in person. With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020 In reality, voter fraud of all forms is extremely rare, and that’s especially the case with mail voting. As the Brennan Center detailed earlier this year (emphasis theirs): None of the five states that hold their elections primarily by mail has had any voter fraud scandals since making that change. As the New York Times editorial board notes, “states that use vote-by-mail have encountered essentially zero fraud: Oregon, the pioneer in this area, has sent out more than 100 million mail-in ballots since 2000, and has documented only about a dozen cases of proven fraud.” Rounded to the seventh decimal point, that’s 0.0000001 percent of all votes cast. An exhaustive investigative journalism analysis of all known voter fraud cases identified only 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud from 2000 to 2012. As election law professor Richard L. Hasen notes, during that period “literally billions of votes were cast.” While mail ballots are more susceptible to fraud than in-person voting, it is still more likely for an American to be struck by lightning than to commit mail voting fraud. Trump has repeatedly cited episodes of attempted fraud on behalf of Republican Mark Harris in a North Carolina congressional race in 2018 and more recently in New Jersey as evidence there’s good reason to be worried. But as Berman explained to me, there’s an irony in Trump citing instances where attempted fraud was detected and ultimately unsuccessful. “When you do absentee ballot fraud, or voter fraud in general, on a scale large enough to influence an election, you get caught because it’s obvious you’re cheating,” Berman said. “There’s lots of procedures in place to protect mail voting. Every mail ballot has its own ID number, for example. So there are lots of things you can do to protect the system, and if you try to game the system one way or another, that’s gonna catch the attention of election officials and authorities, and they’re going to be able to invalidate those ballots.” Trump, however, is less interested in reports of actual fraud than he is creating the appearance of fraud. And that’s where his dismantling of the United States Postal Services comes in. The USPS is designated with safeguarding mail-in ballots — and it’s facing some unique challenges Louis DeJoy, a Trump megadonor, became postmaster general in June. Since he took over, he’s done some dramatic restructuring of the United States Postal Service (USPS), leading critics to wonder if he’s working to hamper the institution, which, of course, is tasked with collecting ballots from voters and getting them to polling locations in a timely manner. After operational changes implemented under DeJoy’s leadership, mail carriers are no longer receiving overtime pay, resulting in service slowdowns. And while Trump has been bashing the USPS for years, the move to kneecap the Post Office just ahead of an election in which unprecedented numbers of voters will try to vote by mail because of a pandemic reeks of an effort to sow chaos — and perhaps provide Trump with a pretext to challenge the results of the election that, according to current polls, he’s more likely to lose than win. During a recent Fox & Friends interview, Trump was asked to respond to Hillary Clinton’s accusation that he’s trying to sabotage the Post Office ahead of November’s election. Notably, he didn’t deny it. “As you know, the Postal Service for 40 years has had big problems,” Trump said. “And they’re not equipped to handle a governor where they say, ‘millions of ballots, by the way, will be posted in a couple weeks. Gear up.’ You can’t do that. It doesn’t work that way.” (The Postal Service has said it has “ample capacity” to handle mail ballots.) Asked on Fox & Friends about Hillary Clinton accusing him of sabotaging the Postal Service, Trump immediately pivots to bashing Clinton and never denies that that's what he's up to— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 5, 2020 Gronke characterized Trump’s hampering of USPS as an effort “to fundamentally undermine the core of democracy.” “They’re really gonna try this? I mean, this is pretty blatant,” he told Vox. “In some ways, for me, this is worse than the Trump attacks [on mail voting], which is just sort of — he’s flailing. But this could really be harmful.” Gronke’s sentiment was echoed by Ari Berman. “I think all of the changes at the Post Office — delaying mail, cutting overtime — can lead to mail ballots being delayed, and that also is an effort by the Trump administration to fight vote by mail,” Berman told Vox. “So I’m less concerned about the rhetoric, and I’m more concerned about the tangible thing that Trump and his allies are doing to try to make it harder to vote by mail, and to try to make it harder for votes to be counted.” Even congressional Republicans — especially those representing rural areas in which people rely on the Postal Service for everything for medications to clothing — are uneasy with Trump’s detrimental changes to the Postal Service. Last Thursday, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) wrote a letter to DeJoy saying that “delaying mail service is unacceptable. Do not continue down this road.” “This action, if not rescinded, will negatively impact mail delivery for Montanans and unacceptably increase the risk of late prescriptions, commercial products or bill delivery,” added another Montana Republican, Sen. Steve Daines. Those letters came the same day as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the changes “threaten the timely delivery of mail — including medicines for seniors, paychecks for workers and absentee ballots for voters — that is essential to millions of Americans.” The USPS is very popular — it regularly tops the list of Americans’ favorite government agencies. Trump, however, is doing whatever he thinks necessary to maximize his chances of staying in power past next January. The backdrop to all this is the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to rage out of control in large swaths of the country and makes it risky to vote at polling places that under normal circumstances can be crowded and feature long lines. But instead of embracing methods of voting that will keep people safe, Trump views voter suppression stemming from the pandemic as useful to his cause. Republicans have suddenly gone to war with mail-in voting Despite what Trump’s comments might lead you to believe, Republicans have a long history of doing just fine in systems that have lots of mail voting. Deep red Utah, for instance, is one of five states that already conducts elections almost entirely by mail. Republicans in swing states like Florida and Wisconsin have also had lots of success with absentee voting. But Trump, for whatever reason, has long been convinced that mail voting is bad for him. In April, for instance, he tweeted (falsely) that mail voting has “tremendous potential for voter fraud” and “for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” (Studies on vote-by-mail have shown no such partisan advantage.) Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans. @foxandfriends— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2020 While Trump is wrong about whether mail-in voting favors Democrats in general, he appears to be correct in believing that mail voting could be bad for him this election cycle. According to Emerson College polling conducted late last month, a whopping 76 percent of voters who plan to vote by mail plan to vote for Joe Biden. By contrast, 65 percent of those planning to vote in person say they’ll vote for Trump. A normal politician’s response to those numbers might be to work harder to appeal to voters who plan to vote by mail. Trump, however, is no normal politician. “I think he’s concerned not about mail voting, but that more Democrats are going to vote by mail than Republicans,” Berman said. “I think that’s [the Trump campaign’s] big concern, because they had no problems with people voting by mail in 2012, or 2008, or any of the previous elections in which Republicans voted by mail and encouraged their own people to do so.” Trump’s message to states trying to make it as safe as possible for people to vote during a pandemic: “See you in court!” The Trump campaign has also been filing lawsuits against states like Nevada, where officials are expanding mail voting systems ahead of November’s election. After Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) recently signed legislation to automatically provide all Nevada voters with a ballot in the mail, Trump responded with a tweet absurdly describing the legislation as “an illegal late night coup,” adding, “See you in court!” In an illegal late night coup, Nevada’s clubhouse Governor made it impossible for Republicans to win the state. Post Office could never handle the Traffic of Mail-In Votes without preparation. Using Covid to steal the state. See you in Court!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2020 Indeed, Trump’s lawyers quickly filed a lawsuit seeking to block the new law. As my colleague Ian Millhiser explained, the suit’s argument is a mess — but that doesn’t mean it won’t gain traction in federal courts dominated by Republicans. Their legal complaint in Donald J. Trump for President v. Cegavske is not a model of careful legal argumentation. It claims, for example, that AB4 changed Nevada law to allow mailed-in ballots without postmarks to be counted so long as they arrive within three days of Election Day. In fact, Nevada law already allowed such ballots to be counted. An entire section of the complaint focuses on the fact that AB4 was enacted “on a weekend vote” — the state House approved the bill on a Friday, but the Senate passed it on a Sunday — without explaining how the day of the bill’s passage was relevant to its legality. The Nevada lawsuit illustrates the Trump campaign’s broader strategy. CNN quoted an unnamed senior Trump campaign official who said “the game plan is to fight [new mail-in voting laws] at every turn,” and reported that the Republican National Committee plans to devote as much as $20 million to contest “voting laws and policies that they view as unconstitutional and potentially damaging to the President’s prospects of winning.” “We’re not going to have election night in the traditional sense” Amber McReynolds, the CEO of advocacy group Vote at Home, told Vox that one thing states can do to preempt the nightmare scenario of Trump prematurely declaring victory is pass laws allowing for the processing of mail ballots before election day. “There are still some states that have outdated policies and laws around that issue. Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, all don’t allow processing until Election Day, which is why they’re delayed,” McReynolds said. “So we’ve been working on various states to expand the timeline ahead of election day, so that frankly election officials aren’t so stressed with resources trying to get that work done.” But McReynolds added that Trump’s degradation of the USPS will likely present problems no matter what state legislatures do between now and November. “I’m very concerned, frankly, and it’s not just because of mail ballots,” she said. “The election process itself relies heavily on the USPS. So there’s required ballot issue notices, required poll worker notices, poll place notices, voter registration requirements — there’s all kind of election notices that are required under federal and state law, and that’s really what’s going to be impacted if the Post Office gets destroyed.” Berman said that part of the challenge is a mental one. 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I Was Sanctioned by China
It is a bit disorienting to wake up early expecting to go out for a walk, and find that you have been personally targeted for sanctions by the most powerful authoritarian state in the world.As friends began emailing and texting me Monday morning, I learned that I had been placed on a list of leaders of prodemocracy organizations and members of Congress to be punished by the Chinese government, in retaliation for the U.S. sanctions imposed last week on 11 Chinese and Hong Kong officials for their role in diminishing freedom in the former British colony. The contrast between the U.S. and Chinese sanctions is telling: The former aim to punish human-rights violations, and the latter aim to punish speech about those violations.I’m the president of Freedom House, a nonpartisan, independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, so I’m no stranger to repressive governments. Even so, I was taken aback.[Read: The panopticon is already here]I must confess a bit of anxiety over being singled out by a regime that has shown itself willing to forcibly abduct dissidents beyond its borders. But the legal and practical implications of the sanctions are opaque. The most serious consequence will probably be that I cannot soon return to Hong Kong, the city where I was born and for which I have great personal affection. (My dad was a U.S. diplomat there.)This consequence pales in comparison with the repression faced by the people of Hong Kong, the Uighurs of Xinjiang, and millions of others who find themselves disfavored by the current totalitarian-minded leadership in Beijing. Nevertheless, it signals the Chinese government’s growing willingness to threaten its foreign critics, even American citizens who are accustomed to robust constitutional protections for free speech and assembly.Since Xi Jinping rose to power eight years ago, the Chinese Communist Party has choked off the few remaining political rights and civil liberties available to its own people (according to Freedom House’s annual assessments) while ramping up efforts to export its repression. Beijing’s tactics have included directly threatening overseas dissidents and members of persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, bullying international corporations, manipulating foreign media coverage, imposing censorship on Hollywood movies, attempting to control speech on foreign college campuses, and misusing international institutions to exclude Taiwan.More and more, Beijing’s cross-border offensive is directly affecting what Americans are able to do in their day-to-day life.Samuel Chu, an American citizen, recently had an experience very similar to mine—but with a much more frightening twist. Chu woke up on August 1 and discovered he was being targeted by the Hong Kong government for his prodemocracy views. He is now facing trumped-up criminal charges of “inciting secession” and “colluding with foreign powers,” having lobbied the U.S. government on its Hong Kong policy. These charges could carry a life sentence in prison under the new National Security Law approved this summer in Beijing.[Read: Hong Kong’s most brazen arrest yet]As Chu pointed out, if he can be targeted for what he’s said in America, then anyone anywhere in the world can be targeted. Not only can Chu no longer safely travel to Hong Kong or mainland China, but he can’t travel to any country that might extradite him to those places, or he risks spending decades behind bars.Staff at American organizations like Freedom House have long been denied visas for travel to mainland China, and Freedom House as an institution was slapped with sanctions by Beijing last December, months before I was personally blacklisted. The new National Security Law for Hong Kong places Freedom House staff at higher risk as we continue to monitor domestic repression in China and the CCP’s efforts to undermine freedom abroad, including within the United States. Though these risks might be minor compared with those faced by the people of Hong Kong and Chinese citizens struggling to defend their own rights, they are a clear example of the transnational authoritarian influence we and many others have sought to highlight.The CCP’s efforts go well beyond intimidation of well-known human-rights groups. In July, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment of two Chinese nationals alleged to have conducted a 10-year computer hacking campaign for the Chinese government that included the targeting of “individual dissidents, clergy, and democratic and human rights activists in the United States.” Uighurs living in the U.S. have received threats from security officials in China, intended to silence their reports about what has been happening to their family members detained in mass internment camps in Xinjiang. Major U.S. news outlets, Chinese media in the diaspora, activist groups supporting freedom for Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, Chinese human-rights defenders, and campaigners against high-level corruption in China have also been hit with costly website blocks, cyberattacks, threats against advertisers, and pressure to self-censor.Hong Kong has emerged as a new CCP redline for U.S. corporations, which have come under pressure to censor their own communications and products for audiences outside China.[Read: A newsroom at the edge of autocracy]In October 2019, the Chinese Basketball Association cut ties with the Houston Rockets, and Chinese state television refused to air Rockets games, after the Houston general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted, “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” a slogan popular among prodemocracy demonstrators in the territory. Chinese officials expressed outrage. The NBA and various players quickly apologized and distanced themselves from Morey’s post. This in turn sparked criticism from groups such as Freedom House, which objected to the NBA’s failure to defend free speech. Human-rights protesters who showed up at NBA games were ejected or had their signs confiscated for holding up slogans as benign as “Google: Uyghurs.”Hong Kong protesters began covering one eye in August, after a protester’s eye was seriously wounded by police. The American jewelry company Tiffany & Co. was pressured into removing an advertisement that depicted a model covering one eye, after outraged buyers from China complained that it looked like the Hong Kong protest symbol. Tiffany & Co. said its advertisement had been approved in May and was completely unrelated to Hong Kong’s protests, but it removed the ad anyway.My colleagues at Freedom House are often told that although the repression happening in Hong Kong may be terrible, it doesn’t necessarily affect us here at home. But that’s just not true. CCP repression is already shaping what we can say, where we can travel, the products we buy, and even the news we read.When such issues are raised with the CCP, it often offers a twofold response: asserting the principles of sovereignty and noninterference in China’s domestic affairs and deflecting the criticism by pointing out problems here in the United States. But while the United States certainly has its own problems, we are well aware of them thanks to our free press, pluralistic political system, and independent civil-society groups like Freedom House. These features of American democracy provide us with the tools to correct long-standing injustice and inequities, and we have an obligation to lend our support to similar democratic processes elsewhere. If the Chinese leadership had any intention of addressing its own people’s genuine grievances, it would not be working so hard to demolish and suppress such instruments of peaceful improvement.That the CCP routinely breaks Chinese laws and international commitments by violating the rights of people in mainland China and Hong Kong is appalling enough. The regime certainly should not be permitted to do the same in the United States, or any other country.
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At least one person wasn’t having a sunny day at Sesame Street.
The Return of Anonymous
At the end of May, as protests against the police killing of George Floyd got under way, reports started to circulate that the shadowy hacker group Anonymous was back.The rumors began with a video depicting a black-clad figure in the group’s signature Guy Fawkes mask. “Greetings, citizens of the United States,” the figure said in a creepy, distorted voice. “This is a message from Anonymous to the Minneapolis Police Department.” The masked announcer addressed Floyd’s killing and the larger pattern of police misconduct, concluding, “We will be exposing your many crimes to the world. We are legion. Expect us.”[Justin Ellis: Minneapolis had this coming]The clip generated a wave of renewed enthusiasm for Anonymous, particularly among young people. Twitter accounts associated with the group saw a surge of new followers, a couple of them by the millions.At the height of its popularity, in 2012, Anonymous had been a network of thousands of activists, a minority of them hackers, devoted to leftist-libertarian ideals of personal freedom and opposed to the consolidation of corporate and government power. But after a spate of arrests, it had largely faded from view.Now a new generation was eager to join. “How does one apply to be a part of Anonymous? I just wanna help out, I’ll even make the hackers coffee or suttin” an activist in the United Kingdom joked on Twitter, garnering hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets.Anonymous “stan” (super fan) accounts remixed the video on TikTok to give the shadowy figure glamorous nails and jewelry. Others used the chat service Discord to create virtual spaces where thousands of new devotees could celebrate the hackers with memes and fan fiction. One of the largest Anonymous accounts on Twitter begged people to “stop sending us nudes.”A series of hacks followed the release of the video. News outlets speculated that it was Anonymous who had hijacked Chicago police scanners on May 30 and 31 to play N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police” and Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain,” a 2007 song that served as an unofficial anthem for the group. Likewise, when the Minneapolis Police Department website went offline from an apparent DDoS attack—a hack that overwhelms a target site with traffic—social media credited Anonymous.Three weeks later, on Juneteenth, a person identifying as Anonymous leaked hundreds of gigabytes of internal police files from more than 200 agencies across the U.S. The hack, labeled #BlueLeaks, contained little information about police misconduct. However, it did reveal that local and federal law-enforcement groups spread poorly researched and exaggerated misinformation to Minnesota police officers during the unrest in May and June, and made efforts to monitor protesters’ social-media activity.I had recently published a book that detailed the tangled origins of Anonymous, and until last month, I’d thought the group had faded away. I was surprised by its reemergence, and wanted to understand how and why it seemed to be coming back, starting with who had made the new video. It didn’t take me long to find out.The video was watermarked, which is uncharacteristic for Anonymous. The mark is blurred out in copies, but appears in the original post in white font: “” That URL led me to a news-aggregation site, which brought me to the site’s Facebook page, where the first iteration of the video had been posted on May 28. A British company called Midialab Ltd. controlled the page. I wrote to the email listed on the page, and the company’s owner replied the same day. This person requested anonymity but was willing to put me in touch with the creator of the video.I suspected I was chasing the tail of some Russian troll farm whose business it was to promote radical division of all stripes. The first place to report on the video, on May 29, had been RT, the state-owned Russian media outlet. And the millions of new followers flocking to Anonymous Twitter accounts? As the accounts themselves pointed out, many were bots.Within an hour of receiving the email, I got a call from a suburb in Harford County, Maryland, just north of where I live. The man on the line told me his name was John Vibes. “Hey, man,” he said. “Surprised I’m local? I made the video.”Vibes told me he had worked as a party promoter organizing raves in Baltimore and Philadelphia for the past decade, which had led him into countercultural thought and, eventually, activism. “I had been writing things about police brutality and I was contacted by the guy that runs”, a tech entrepreneur in the U.K. who agreed with Anonymous’s politics and wanted to support it. Vibes is a freelance writer who writes and produces videos for the Facebook page, which functions as a news hub. “Mostly we just cover news about what Anonymous would be interested in—the banking system, corruption,” he said. “A couple of times a month we’ll look at the big stories and we’ll aggregate the general sentiment into a video.”[Read: Mr. Washington goes to Anonymous]Indeed, the Facebook page releases Anonymous videos regularly, many of them made by Vibes. But he was not the masked figure speaking to the camera in the most recent viral video. The page often recycles the same footage and simply uses new audio.Vibes emphasized that he wasn’t a hacker, but a “journalist” who was echoing the sentiment of Anonymous members on social media and chat rooms. The purpose of the Facebook page was to create an outlet for that message. “To be clear, we’re not a Russian troll farm,” Vibes said.[Read: Russia’s troll operation was not that sophisticated]Still, my conversation with Vibes left me feeling uncertain about whether Anonymous was really back. The new hacks in May and early June were tied to the group largely through rumors. And the video wasn’t put out by Anonymous hackers, but by an activist who supported their message. In some sense, Vibes was simply another fan, remixing a remix. Was it all just smoke and mirrors?But when I spoke with a variety of current and former Anonymous hackers over the past month, they all insisted that Anonymous was indeed reactivating. To understand why, and what that really means, it’s helpful to keep in mind the two somewhat-competing interpretations of Anonymous.In one sense, Anonymous is a decentralized community of tech activists who collaborate in small groups on projects they call “operations.”But then there is the second definition of Anonymous. Anonymous members will tell you that Anonymous has no members, that it is not a group, but rather a banner. People rally to it. And like a pirate flag, anyone can run it up their mast and start doing deeds in Anonymous’s name.“It’s the vigilante,” Gregg Housh, one of the creators of a 2008 Anonymous anti-Scientology video, told me. Anonymous “was designed specifically to be that way. In its initial founding, it existed as trolls … people doing whatever they wanted, with that hint of vigilantism. It was designed to be totally open. Anyone can be Anonymous.”In the new video Vibes made, Anonymous represents extrajudicial justice, the superhero entering to right what the normal course of the law cannot—an idea that can seem deeply appealing now that the ordinary enforcers of justice—the police—appear to some to be the source of the crime.My sources affiliated with Anonymous all told me the same thing: People were flowing back into the chat rooms to coordinate new “operations.” This is how Anonymous has always worked. A viral video generates a wave of enthusiasm. Then the leaderless collective debates what to do. Sometimes it settles on performative acts of protest, such as hacking police scanners or briefly downing a website. But as occurred with BlueLeaks, oftentimes more skilled hackers steal and leak documents intended to buttress a political cause with substantive evidence.However, both the group of people and the movement have changed over the years. And to track Anonymous’s trajectory, it’s necessary to understand how the entire project began: as a joke by teenagers.In the mid 2000s, Aubrey Cottle was part of a crew of online pranksters who called themselves “trolls” and orbited two anarchic online message boards: Something Awful and 4chan. Thousands of users were on these boards—almost all young men—but among them was a more die-hard band who hung out in the same chat rooms, feuded online, and met up in real life. They called themselves Anonymous. The name was derived from the way 4chan presented usernames. If none was specified, the site displayed “Anonymous” by default.In 2007, a man appeared at Cottle’s door. Cottle was 20 and still living with his mother in Toronto. As Cottle tells the story (confirmed in part by a friend of his), the man was from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the nation’s equivalent to the CIA. Curious, Cottle led him to his room, which was littered with hard drives, server equipment, and old copies of the ’90s hacker magazine 2600.“Would you be willing to use your abilities against al-Qaeda and terrorist groups?” the agent asked him. A number of thoughts flashed through Cottle’s mind: Is this guy for real? I would never work for the feds. Should I delete everything? But mostly he felt like a fraud. The man thought he was something he wasn’t.“You want me to raid internet forums for you?” Cottle asked.Anonymous trolls loved to conduct “raids” on other sites, flooding online games and chat rooms with their “army” of users to disrupt the space. Like cruel older brothers, they often picked the easiest target they could find—younger kids. They loved raiding a children’s game called Habbo Hotel by lining up their avatars to block access to the online pool.When 4chan began cracking down on organizing raids, Anonymous migrated to Cottle’s copycat site, 420chan, which he’d created to discuss his principal interests: drugs and professional wrestling. And Cottle became the de facto leader of Anonymous, a role he relished. It was during this time, Cottle told me, that he codified a set of half-joking rules for the group that became known as the infamous “Rules of the Internet.” They included “3. We are Anonymous 4. Anonymous is legion 5. Anonymous never forgives.”Cottle and his friends also were the first to start using the Guy Fawkes mask. They chose it simply because they loved the movie V for Vendetta, a 2005 film adaptation of a dystopian-fiction comic book. V, the film’s protagonist, dons the disguise to fight a future fascist police state by firebombing buildings, inverting the story of the original Guy Fawkes, who is vilified in English folklore for attempting to blow up Parliament in 1605.[Read: The misunderstood legacy of Guy Fawkes]Cottle told CSIS he’d think about its offer (which he later declined) and went back to cyberbullying. But not long after the authorities came to Cottle’s door, Anonymous would make the news. A Fox affiliate in Los Angeles had run a segment on the group, framing them as “hackers on steroids.” The report implied that Anonymous was perhaps a terrorist organization, overlaying the segment’s narration with stock footage of a van exploding.The segment delighted Anonymous. Hacking was something its members did for their own amusement. Now in the eyes of the media—and the government—they were a shadowy and powerful cabal, capable of anything. It was something people wanted to believe about them, something they could use.Anonymous spent much of 2007 harassing Hal Turner, a neo-Nazi radio host, not because the group was at all political during this period, but because Turner proved to be an easy target. Each week, Anonymous would clog his phone lines, down his website, or order hundreds of pizzas to his house. But the fun ended abruptly when it hacked Turner so thoroughly that it discovered he was an FBI informant.After Turner, Anonymous needed a new target. They shifted to the Church of Scientology, a recurrent enemy of hackers and freedom-of-information activists since the early 1990s. The catalyst for the new operation was a video, the one made by Housh. It used the Fox news piece as inspiration, hinting that Anonymous was a powerful ring of international hackers. “Over the years we have been watching you,” it announced in a text-to-speech computer voice. “We are legion.”When the video went viral, enthusiasm hit an all-time high. Anons flowed into the same chat rooms they had once used to coordinate raids, this time channeling their numbers into a series of street protests against Scientology in major cities around the world. (Anonymous accused Scientology of bilking its adherents with pseudoscience and of illegally silencing critics.) Several hundred people attended a protest I reported on in New York, almost all of them dressed in Guy Fawkes masks.For many, the cynicism of trolling was shattered when they realized they could effect change in the real world. To the surprise of even themselves, Anonymous had inherited a conflict that had been raging since the 1980s. On one side were hackers who wanted to employ the internet as a tool for personal empowerment; on the other stood governments and corporations, who used it as a panopticon for personal-data collection.Presently, the Anonymous movement split into competing factions of trolls and activists. Cottle led the trolling side, but his contingent soon lost control.The watershed moment came in late 2010, when an Anonymous operation to support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks snowballed into a massive attack against PayPal and Mastercard for blocking WikiLeaks donations. Once again, following media attention, thousands of Anons flooded into chat rooms they had previously used to coordinate invasions into computer games, this time in an attempt to disable corporate websites.[Read: The radical evolution of WikiLeaks]Before long, Anonymous had uncovered plans for HBGary Federal, a security company; Palantir, the tech-surveillance giant; and the private security company Berico Technologies to embarrass WikiLeaks using Nixonian dirty tricks. The story of the HBGary leak became front-page news. And Anonymous’s ranks swelled even more.The Anons involved in the hack formed a splinter group, LulzSec (Lols Security), and went on a high-profile hacking spree, targeting major corporations like Sony and several government agencies whenever they felt that these organizations were trampling individual freedoms—or simply to show that they could. But in 2012, the FBI arrested one of LulzSec’s members, Hector “Sabu” Monsegur, a 28-year-old man living in New York City public housing. Sabu became an informant and the center of an elaborate sting operation that resulted in the arrest of many of the group’s principal participants. (Monsegur has denied being responsible for those arrests, though does not deny being an FBI informant.)Anonymous never fully recovered. Small groups of Anons remained, but the energy behind the banner dissipated.Anonymous’s most high-profile hack in the following years came in support of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri. In response to the police-shooting death of Michael Brown, the group downed the city’s web servers and publicized the home address of the police chief. When officials were not forthcoming about the details of Brown’s death, Anonymous leaked audio recordings of emergency dispatchers discussing the incident. However, when Anonymous announced the name of the shooter, it named the wrong person, damaging its reputation.Then Anonymous weathered another blow: the alt-right.Fredrick Brennan was 12 years old when he discovered 4chan in 2006. When I interviewed him for my book, It Came From Something Awful, he recalled the fun and “camaraderie” of the days when Anons piled into chat rooms to attack PayPal and Mastercard. But he spent his late teens struggling financially, bouncing between low-paying jobs in the gig economy. Eventually, he decided that he was doomed to forever be on the bottom as an “incel” (involuntary celibate) dropout. The copy of 4chan he founded in 2013, 8chan, became a wildly popular breeding ground for “far-right extremism.” However, Brennan managed to shed what he described as the “toxic” ideology of the chans; his tipping point came last year, when a wave of mass shooters who self-identified as fascist incels all cited 8chan as their inspiration. Since then, he’s been working to shut down 8chan, now known as 8kun.The seeds of the alt-right had always been a part of Anonymous’s culture. Though Anonymous troll armies had started out by harassing neo-Nazis in 2007, they’d also coated sites in swastikas and racist slurs for shock value. And eventually, the neo-Nazis they targeted began using 4chan in their online recruitment efforts.So by 2016, Anonymous hacktivists had turned back to the places where they had once organized—chat rooms and forums that are adjacent to 4chan—and begun to fight a rearguard action. In 2018, Anonymous declared war on “QAnon,” a bizarre alt-right conspiracy theory that had been started on 4chan the previous year by far-right trolls but has since spread into mainstream Republican discourse.[From the June 2020 issue: The prophecies of Q]Some Anonymous hackers now spend their time tracking and outing alt-right organizers, often in the same networks they occupied in the mid-2000s trolling era.What does all of this mean for the future of Anonymous?Some members have shifted their modus operandi. Several told me they now work quietly, rarely if ever repeating the mistake that had landed many of them in jail: publicizing what they do. (This has not been the case with BlueLeaks, however. A hacker involved in the leak identified as Anonymous, and other Anonymous groups were happy to adopt the hack under their banner.)They are more wary than ever, often openly wondering who among them are police or informants. They no longer organize on the archaic Internet Relay Chat (IRC), believing it to be compromised, instead preferring more modern end-to-end encrypted chat clients, such as Wire, Gajim, or Signal. For social media, they almost exclusively use Twitter, feeling that other companies do not do enough to protect users’ privacy.And age has brought temperance. “We’ve grown up a lot—at least I have—since the beginning of all of this,” an Anonymous activist who runs the Twitter account @Anon2World told me. “Back in 2010–2012, we would have decimated anything we could to make a point; now we realize how we could inadvertently affect people in negative ways.”This time around, many members emphasized, they would like to play a supporting role to Black Lives Matter, as they had during the 2014 Ferguson protests, when despite their stumbles, their presence was appreciated by some BLM activists. And in the long term, it now appears that Anonymous might be with us perennially, blooming in revolutionary moments, when it feels as if one big push might effect change.But there is another possibility—that once again Anonymous will be recast.Anonymous began with teens hanging out in chat rooms. They put on the mask of the anti-fascist superhero for fun, but over time learned to play the role first with style, then conviction.When teens began hanging out in Discord chat rooms last month wondering how they could join Anonymous, the answer from the largest Anonymous Twitter accounts was simple: Do it yourself.Many of the new Anonymous stans had come from TikTok and the K-pop (Korean pop) community. At the end of May, the K-pop stans clogged the Dallas Police Department’s tip-line app with dance videos. Then, spurred on by Anonymous Twitter accounts, they reserved hundreds of thousands of tickets to Trump’s ill-fated rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in which the president found himself addressing largely empty seats.[Read: The hackers who hate Donald Trump]The pattern felt familiar: a group of teens meeting online to consume media, then realizing that their numbers were so strong, they could pull some epic pranks, or become a political collective, or maybe both. As the former Anonymous member Jake Davis put it on Twitter, the “TikTok/Kpop … stuff feels like a more viral version of old 4chan invasions/raids … Fully expecting Fox News to make some spooky video calling them hackers on steroids.”In V for Vendetta, after a pandemic leads to a fascist dictatorship in the year 2020, everyone puts on the Guy Fawkes mask to topple the regime.That’s at least how the movie version ends.And if there were ever any difference between our world and the other side of the screen, it feels as if it were effaced long ago.