Loose-knit hacker collective Anonymous made headlines this year during campaigns to support controversial causes like WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street. Now the group has chosen a far less divisive issue, launching a coordinated attack on sites that deal in or facilitate exchanges of child pornography.

“Lately, there has been a surge of websites dedicated to pedophiles for chat, picture sharing, etc,” reads a document announcing the campaign. “Child pornography is frequently traded and even innocent pictures of random children (at the beach, on a playground, etc) are publicly fantasized about. This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

In a first salvo, vigilantes associated with the group have posted a number of lists, ostensibly of the email and IP addresses of users on forums and message boards where child porn is exchanged. It’s not clear where that data originated, though the not-so-subtle implication of the info dump is that the internet community should harass the listed email address.

Other planned actions including taking down, hijacking and defacing web sites suspected of being part of child porn rings, releasing logs and releasing the identities of individuals associated with the sites. A list of targeted sites includes notes on which have been successfully attacked.

The document also contained a call to action for readers not associated with the informal group, swerving into internet vernacular as admonishes bystanders to join the cause.

“YOU are Anonymous as well,” wrote the hacktivists. “YOU can get off your ass and help. Spread the word to fellow Anons, to the press, and encourage them to do the same. Those that can attack are asked to fire their lazors; those that cannot are encouraged to learn.”

The document outlining the campaign warned the administrators of text hosting site Pastebin that there “will be consequences” if the file is removed. It’s strange that Anonymous is using Pastebin for the initiative in the first place, ZDNet noted, since the hacker collective has mostly switched over to the alternative AnonPaste service.

Anonymous grew out the image board 4chan in the early to mid 2000s, eventually moving from petty mischief to more serious activism. The collective’s social and political activities have come to be associated with Guy Fawkes masks, a symbol from Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta.

Image: Unknown

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