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The Fifth of November refers to an English folk verse used in recognition of Guy Fawkes Day, an annual commemoration of the arrest of Guy Fawkes, a British-born rebel who was caught guarding a stockpile of explosives during a failed attempt at blowing up the House of Lords and assassinate King James I of England and IV of Scotland in 1605. The masks saw a modern-day resurgence with the 1982 comic series V for Vendetta and its film adaptation in 2006, after which it was co-opted as a symbol of the hacktivist group Anonymous beginning with the Project Chanology protests in 2008. Since then, November 5th has been regularly observed by the members of Anonymous through various hacking operations and protests against powerful institutions and corporations.
The phrase “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November” originally appeared as the first lines in a folk verse that was written sometime around 1870. The verse was used in the first chapter of the comic series V for Vendetta, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. When the movie was adapted into a film released in March 2006, the phrase was used as a tagline in its marketing in addition to its appearance in the film (shown below).
In September 2006, the Guy Fawkes mask became associated with a 4chan stick figure character known as Epic Fail Guy after a comic thread was posted on an unknown board showing the character finding the mask in a trash can (shown below). After this, the character, known for his inability to successfully complete any task, continued to be depicted wearing the mask. In addition, the phrase “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November” was also used on 4chan throughout 2007, including a June 2007 thread on /b/ (random) discussing overused memes on the site.
In January 2008, posters from both 4chan and 711chan, in addition to several other websites aligned with Anonymous, decided to launch a campaign against the Church of Scientology known as Project Chanology after the Church issued a DMCA takedown on a video containing material from an interview with actor Tom Cruise about the religion. Real-life gatherings were organized, taking place on February 10th, 2008, when more than 7000 members of the hacktivist collective from more than 100 cities globally protested in front of Scientology churches, marking the first offline action of Anonymous.. Many members chose to wear a Guy Fawkes mask to the protests as a way to conceal their identity and show their alliance to the collective.
In 2010, a group of French Anonymous members targeted the website for the French government agency Hadopi on November 5th. The agency, whose name translates to the High Authority for Transmission of Creative Works and Copyright Protection, has the ability to police internet users for their activities. As part of 2010’s Operation Payback, the group scheduled distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that October with a now-removed YouTube video. The day of the attacks, the story was shared on French forum JeuxVideo.com, news sites Le Post and Numerama, as well as English blog GamePolitics. It is unclear whether or not the DDoS attack actually took place.
2011: Operation Facebook
In July 2011, a communique video was uploaded to YouTube announcing an attack on the social networking site Facebook scheduled for November 5th, 2011. Called Operation Facebook, the initial communique did not state how the group planned on executing the attack. That August, news of the attack was shared on a variety of news sites, reaching CNN before other Anonymous groups distanced themselves from the operation and Facebook was not hacked on November 5th, 2011.
2012: Operation Vendetta
On November 12th, 2011, YouTuber DCHTID247 uploaded a promotional video (shown below, right) for Operation Vendetta 2012, linking to a Facebook event created by Anonymous UK encouraging people to join them in a march on the Houses of Parliament, recreating the final scene from V for Vendetta. In December, YouTuber The99PercentOrg uploaded a second promotional video (shown below, left) to encourage viewers to march on their government on November 5th.
In October 2012, Anonymous members in the United Kingdom began handing out flyers advertising the event and discussing it on Twitter using the hashtag #OpVendetta, which was used more than 26,000 times between October 5th and November 5th. Additionally, online protests were planned for November 5th. On the 4th, a Pastebin Press Release for the UK collective was shared, stating the group’s demands for access to a free internet, a stop to budget cuts for healthcare, welfare and education, a defense of the right to protest and for the release of the Anonymous members who have been jailed for their actions including Topiary and Julian Assange.
On November 5th, 2012, Australian Anonymous members began hacking, taking down a handful of Australian sites, mostly by defacing them with Anonymous materials and manifestos. As more time zones reached November 5th, more sites went down including US television network NBC, photo host ImageShack, Lady Gaga fan site Gaga Daily, Symantec, and PayPal, from which Anonymous claimed to have stolen 28,000 passwords. Several hundred protestors gathered in London for the march on Parliament, sharing photos on Facebook and Instagram from the event.
2012: Fawkes Security
In December 2011, the Anonymous offshoot Fawkes Security was launched. Months later, in October 2012, they posed a bomb threat via a YouTube video, arguing it was going to be part of Operation Vendetta. The video announced they had placed a military grade bomb in a government building somewhere in the United States that would detonate on November 5th, 2012. Soon after the video began to circulate, many Anonymous-aligned Twitter accounts claimed it was a hoax and that this offshoot was not speaking for all of Anonymous. The video was later removed from YouTube for violating its terms of service.
2013: Million Mask March
As early as in June 2013, Anonymous affiliates began organizing the “The Million Mask March,” a mass demonstration scheduled to take place simultaneously in Washington D.C. and 20 other countries on the morning of November 5th, 2013. In the following months, the event became promoted through its official website and Facebook, where it spawned more than two dozens of local chapter events in a similar fashion to the mobilization of Occupy Protests, in addition to YouTube and several local news stations, including Colorado’s Denver iJournal, CBS DC and CNN iReport.
According to its official website, the day-long demonstration is expected to take place in at least 450 locations worldwide to display solidarity for the imprisoned or exiled activists, such as Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, as well as major anti-establishment organizations like the WikiLeaks, Pirate Party and the Occupy Movement.
By around noon (ET), photographs and videos from the scenes of protests had begun surfacing on Twitter, including several pictures of a Guy Fawkes-masked demonstrator in Washington D.C being arrested and taken into custody by the D.C. Metropolitian Police. Aside from the street rallies in major cities across the United Kingdom and United States, similar gatherings of Guy Fawkes Mask protesters were reported in numerous countries across Southeast and East Asia, such as Australia, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand (shown below).
Chanarchive Cache – REMEMBER REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER IS NOW A MEME
Computer World – Anonymous again says it will not attack Facebook on Saturday
Le Post (archives) – Les “Anonymous” auront-ils enfin la peau d’Hadopi.fr… samedi?
Cyber War News – Australian sites Attacked as #5Nov is kicked off by Anonymous
Gizmodo Australia – Anonymous Claims To Have Stolen 28,000 PayPal Passwords
MillionMaskMarch.org – MILLION MASK MARCH | The Official “There is No Official” Site
Denver Journal – Anonymous planning masked march in Denver on Election Day