In class we are discussing internet trolling and the ways in which certain anonymous statements should be judged on the internet. The LATimes article highlighting the use of the word ‘lulz’ reminded me of the phrase it was often used in, coined by trolls in the early online world: ‘doing it for the lulz.’ Of course, as the article states, lulz “is a corruption of ‘laugh out loud'” but lulz is also a measure of trolls success:
“Trolls sense of accomplishment is refereed to as the lulz. Lulz is seeing someone’s frustration boil over from behind the computer or scaring off users of a site that you consider your own.” (Herman, 2014)
One of the most common ways trolls celebrated one’s lulz was to post on the forum website known as 4chan. 4chan consisted of pages where anonymous users could post threads with GIFs, images, text, etc. and flaunt their trolling successes. It was from this anonymous user medium that the world actually got Anonymous — a notorious hacktivist entity whose domain reaches online and offline communities — which sprouted out of a group of members on the website. Their name, ‘Anonymous’, actually comes from the anonymity of the site and the name the website gave its anonymous users. Just as discussed in the article we read, ‘We’re the reason we can’t have nice things on the internet’, Anonymous was born from 4chan board ‘/b/’, and so, too, was the biggest platform for lulz.
This is a clip from the movie “We Are Legion”, giving a brief explanation of Anon:
The idea of doing it for the lulz is actually the idea behind another big hacktivist group whose history parallels that of Anonymous, Lulz Security (or LulzSec). The LulzSec Wikipedia page accredits them with “claiming responsibility for several high profile attacks, including the compromise of user accounts from Sony Pictures in 2011. The group also claimed responsibility for taking the CIA website offline.”
Their calling card, a cartoon of a man with a monocle sipping wine (), is now a meme that is often associated with ‘lulz’ today. One thing that is interesting, and common among these hacktivist trolls like Anonymous and LulzSec as 4chan has died down, is the use of Twitter to spread their messages. LulzSec used to post about and take credit for their success through the social media platform under the handle @LulzSec. LulzSec, as a whole, has since died down following arrests of many major members and the leader, Matthew Flannery, in 2013. However, although their main handle hasn’t posted since 2014, Twitter accounts associated with the group still exist and are active in the hacktivist community. The accounts are more decentralized and don’t get nearly as much media attention as they used to. They do, however, still ‘do it for the lulz’.
The problem with doing it for the lulz, as discussed in the articles, is that you are gaining laughs at other peoples’ expense. Which brings up a question of morality and if it is okay for people online to be getting a laugh out of other peoples’ misery. In many cases these hacks, which were often what cued the lulz, exposed very personal parts of peoples’ lives. Also, without attackers facing repercussions they might usually face away from the keyboard, there really isn’t anything stopping them from continuing their bullying of real people. Part of the reason they do it is because their target’s “deserve it”… but this definitely goes beyond the bounds of peoples’ privacy.