Is Anonymous vetting presidential candidates?

April 16th, 2012 by andresmh

The group called Anonymous Hispano, the Spanish-speaking branch of the famous hacker collective, issued a statement a few weeks ago announcing that, despite their efforts, they “could not find any evidence of corruption” to incriminate the Mexican presidential candidate López Obrador.  The group prefaced their message by clarifying that they “do not have any partisan agenda and do not support any one” of the candidates. The message ended with an invitation to send them evidence of corruption. In a follow up tweet, they invited the public to submit evidence of corruption of any of the other candidates, suggesting specific hashtags for each of them.


The newspaper El Economista got in touch with Anonymous and reported that the collective accepted having hacked into López’s financial accounts and not finding any transactions that would indicate any wrong-doings:

“[T]the collective broke into the computer systems linked to payments or any kind of money transactions, or political influence, stored in the digital files of AMLO [the candidate’s initials] and his colleagues, and found nothing incriminating him, so the collective is still looking.”

The statement received a fair amount of attention beyond the Twitter-sphere, reaching influential political blogsReddit, and mainstream media.

Beyond the supposed lack of evidence against this particular politician, or whether Anonymous actually hacked into his accounts, there are a few aspects of this story that I find particularly interesting.

First, the weak evidence presented by Anonymous might indicate a substantial amount of symbolic capital accumulated by this group. For example, they could have released evidence of their breaking into the candidate’s accounts, however, all the did was release a statement on Twitter. In the sciences, negative results are almost never reported, and more generally, the lack of evidence for something does not prove or disprove anything. So why did they get media coverage? One possible explanation is that Anonymous, after a long (for Internet standards) history of hacktivism has accumulated the necessary credibility to pull this off. Do they have enough symbolic capital to achieve this in a country with stronger institutions? What would have happened if they had issued a similar statement about one of US presidential candidate?

Second, a clear question to ask is: why this candidate? One possible answer is that they decided to publicly vet and, in a way, endorse this candidate by using the tools they have. It is hard to know if there a direct link between Anonymous Hispano and the rest of Anonymous, but it would be interesting to see if this signals a direct incursion on mainstream politics in the future.

Third, does this represent a move from public shaming to public endorsement? For the most part, Anonymous’ hacktivism has focused on public shaming by “doxing” government officials and corporations.  I think this might be the first time Anonymous changes their method, which is perhaps closer to the role of governmental transparency organizations. It was interesting that none of the reactions I read raised any questions about the ethics of hacking into politicians’ accounts.

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