The hacking group Anonymous have given Australian music artist Iggy Azalea forty-eight hours (less, now, as this story broke yesterday) to apologise to American music artist Azealia Banks for alleged racist comments. If it sounds like I'm making this up, I'm not – read this piece in The Telegraph for more. It's real, and frankly, it's very disturbing.
What's disturbing is not the details of the Azalea/Banks feud, which I gather has been rumbling on for some time now, but the face that Anonymous have seen fit to get involved.
Anonymous are 'a hacking group'. As I joke in title, we don't even know who they are – and that is a problem, when it comes to an issue like this. Allegations of racism are serious, but they are a matter for the police – for real law enforcement agencies who have at least some level of accountability and transparency. It is not for 'Anonymous' to take matters into their own hands and appoint themselves as some sort of 'world police' of the internet, especially not when it comes to matters so sensitive as this.
Drawing the line between protecting freedom of speech and being aware of racial sensibilities is a tough balancing act indeed – and an interesting discussion to have in its own right (one which I shan't be having here). The way Anonymous are acting is tantamount to 'mob rule'; there is no due process here, and no accountability – there is a knee-jerk reaction to alleged comments, resulting in demands, and threats if those demands are not met. That is not justice. That is extortion – extortion carried out by a group against whom there can be no appeal, should you feel they may have acted unfairly. This is the opposite of the way justice should work in any civilised society.
I'm not aware of the details of what Iggy Azalea said – or is supposed to have said – but I do know that the idea of the parameters of acceptability, and the punishments for perceived infringements, being decided by a shadowy, unaccountable group of people who are good at using computers is one which I find deeply unsettling. Whatever the ins-and-outs of this particular incident, we should all be very wary of allowing ourselves to descend into a situation where 'Anonymous' can sit in judgement of us and mete out punishment with no recourse.