Founder of hacker group Anonymous reveals his ultimate ‘end-game’

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Earlier this year, the Atlantic revealed Aubrey Cottle as the internet prankster who years ago started Anonymous, an amorphous collective of hackers and activists waging cyberwar against oppression and corruption by targeting institutions like the Church of Scientology, the Westboro Baptist Church and, most recently, the police department.

“Anonymous has all walks of life,” Cottle wrote in a post on Reddit. “The most infamous is, obviously, the hacker type, but just as important are the ones that mobilize online and spread awareness, do research, and collaborate in that manner. If you have a voice, you can help Anonymous.”

Here’s a breakdown of some of the group’s high-profile battles:

Since its peak in the early 2010s, Anonymous mostly faded from the public eye after a series of arrests, but a new generation seems to be taking up the mantle. For example, earlier this year, a person identifying as Anonymous leaked hundreds of gigabytes of internal police files from more than 200 agencies in what was called the #BlueLeaks.

So what happened to the original crew? Cottle, who does software engineering contract work these days, talked about where his focus currently lies while answering questions on Reddit this week in an “Ask Me Anything” session that has gone viral.

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“Right now my only end-goal is bringing the QAnon game to a conclusion,” he explained to a growing number of Redditors tuning into the AMA. “For the last several months my one and only focus has been on QAnon. I more or less abandoned everything I was doing for this.”

QAnon has risen to prominence during Trump’s presidency, with its followers adhering to a conspiracy theory bent on sowing distrust in democratic institutions. According to the group’s completely unsubstantiated lore, a cabal of global elites control world governments, the banking system, the Catholic Church, the media, etc. Famously, QAnon early on promoted the idea of the “deep state” consisting of a group of pedophiles associated with the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.  Trump, in their view, is uniquely qualified to bring these elites to justice.

How exactly does Cottle plan on bringing them down?

By “pulling the mask off the charlatans crafting this out-of-control ARG [alternate reality game] gone wrong,” he said. “Wiping out as much of their presence as possible on social networks and deplatforming them.” Facebook
has already made progress on that front, having recently banned all QAnon content. In August, the social-media giant removed 1,500 pages, groups and profiles associated with the group.

Here’s what Cottle has done so far in his fight against QAnon and what he believes to be its role in spreading child porn, as covered by Mother Jones.

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Aside from all that, Cottle was asked on Reddit what he hopes the next generation of hackers will tackle going forward. “Privacy rights, big data, monolithic megacorporations owning everything about you and your life,” he said in a response garnering the most upvotes.

Got a question for Cottle? As you can see, he’s probably still there:

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