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article imageReview: Hot Docs — We Are Legion looks at Internet's first army Anonymous

By David Silverberg     May 2, 2012 in Entertainment
You've heard of those hacktivists wearing Guy Fawkes masks and taking down Scientology websites and going to cyber-war with PayPal. But with the documentary We Are Legion, you finally learn about the motives and missions at the heart of Anonymous.
In a compelling and insightful documentary, a profile of the powerful Anonymous hacking collective shows a different side of the global force known for battling the Church of Scientology and opponents of WikiLeaks. Some may see Anonymous members as skilled but criminal hackers living in their parents' basements, but We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists peels back the curtain to reveal a more human story: these are angry and passionate coders taking to their virtual street corner to protest for free speech and Internet freedom.
Brian Knappenberger's 90-minute film, debuting at Toronto's Hot Docs Film Festival, traces the history of hacktivism and online forums, telling us in great detail how pulling pranks online has long been a steadfast tradition that eventually evolved into a more serious form of dissidence. Born out of the 4chan community, Anonymous members first started trying to silence Neo-Nazi radio hosts and Church of Scientology groups. The latter fight gave Anonymous worldwide attention, partially thanks to their real-life protests at almost every Scientology building across the world. This was the hacker getting into the sunlight to finally meet colleagues they've known online for years.
A parade of experts and insiders layer the doc with insight into what motivates Anonymous hackers to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Mastercard or the Australian government: they want to combat Net censorship. Getting Anonymous members to discuss why they do what they do was a real coup for the filmmakers, because these hackers don't often speak so freely to media.
A still from the film We Are Legion about the Anonymous hacktivists
A still from the film We Are Legion about the Anonymous hacktivists
Courtesy Hot Docs
We learn a lot about their core beliefs: They believe in the right to spread information freely (WikiLeaks) and they help other groups spread the word about their own protests (Occupy Wall Street). They oppose governments such as Egypt who bar citizens from accessing the Web. But their hacking work comes with a price, We Are Legion tells us: 14 Anonymous members have been arrested for their alleged crimes, which include lobbing massive DDoS attacks against websites for Scientology, PayPal, MasterCard and more.
The film leaves us with an important question: As more protests are being organized and carried out online, should governments grant these netizens the right to conduct virtual sit-ins? If Occupy protesters can legally block a city intersection, why can't Anonymous members do the same online, shutting down the traffic of their targeted sites?
Whatever you think about hackers fighting for their voices to heard, We Are Legion is a newsworthy film documenting the Internet's first army, who will continue to be relevant in our wired world.
We Are Legion is also screening in Toronto on:
Thu, May 3 3:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Sat, May 5 7:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
More about we are legion, Hot docs, Docs, Documentary, Hacktivist
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