The internet pranksters who started a war

They’ve become the sworn enemies of a controversial religion, famous for unsettling online video attacks and protesting en masse in creepy masks.

But the elusive internet group known as Anonymous didn’t start out with a concrete plan to bring down Scientology. Before they got serious, Anonymous members say, they were only in it for laughs.

In the years before “declaring war”, the group’s stock-in-trade was the creation of internet jokes revolving around, for instance, kitsch 1980s singer Rick Astley.

Anonymous’s transformation from pranksters with a tendency to overstep the mark to a group serious enough to scare Scientology is an intriguing story of the virtual world’s increasing influence on the “real” world.