It’s the time of year when we expect to see posters at every turn asking for a donation, to get approached by very cold looking people holding clipboards in the high street, and to be audience to appeals most television advert breaks. What one might not have expected is to see hacktivist collective Anonymous pick up subjects that are usually the domain of the rather more widely recognised voluntary sector.

 Anonymous | Knowledge is power

Amongst the movements latest operations are OpXmas, OpSafewinter, and OpKillingBay. The concerns of the first of these two movements appear to be pretty much the same thing, an operation concerned with simply encouraging people to be aware of homelessness and just do what ever they can to help; one post states ‘Help in any way you can. Often times something as simple as a clean pair of socks, or a hot cup of coffee can be all it takes.’ Videos posted by member though also include reference to the ‘bedroom tax’ and demand that any UK politician with a spare room take in a homeless person, complete with the usual threat of ‘We don’t forgive. We don’t forget.’

OpKillingBay concerns the group’s efforts to save the dolphin. In fairness its not as generals as that, it specifically concerns the stopping the horrific massacre of thousands of dolphins every year in Taiji, Japan – as made famous by Academy Award wining éxpose ‘The Cove’. The killings are greatly subsidised by the Japanese government and thus this is where the group will direct their attentions. Customary DDoS and other overloading tactics are already being planned, with an attack on the American/Japanese embassy phone lines scheduled for the 12th of December.

But could there be more to this adoption of topics already holding a place in the hearts of many, having been the subject of more conventional campaigns? With recent polls coming in with figures such as 49% regarding Edward Snowden as more of a traitor that a hero and 52% viewing Bradley Manning as a traitor it stands to reason that many, if not more, hold a pretty pore opinion on the activities of Anonymous. If Anonymous want to change the world they’ll need to do more than bring government servers down and march around in masks, they’ll need to get a majority of public opinion on side – this they won’t be able to this with half or more of the population viewing them as criminals.

It is in this context that I wonder whether Anonymous’ taking on these issues, the killing of cute and friendly dolphins and the immediately apparent human suffering from homelessness, is a step towards building a more positive image of Anonymous amongst those who might be inclined to condemn the movement. This might seem a stupid suggestion, Anonymous is after all a loose and decentralised collective with out any apparent hierarchy and the only membership requirement being a members own declaration of being so, however commentators and journalists have repeatedly noted the group’s media awareness and savvy.

Over the coming winter weeks Anonymous has a chance to make a visible and positive impact across our communities. It will be interesting to see whether they take this chance to show the world their good intentions, or whether they fail to come out of the shadows and do nothing to knock the impression of being feckless whiners, only acting out of narcissism and not to help their fellow man.