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Anonymous starts activism via corporate securities research

Anonymous online activist collective adds research arm to expose corporate fraud and scandals.

Members of the Anonymous collective are not just taking their activism to the Internet and the streets; they're now targeting corporate financials with a securities research arm.

The mission of Anonymous Analytics is to "expose companies that practice poor corporate governance and are involved in large-scale fraudulent activities," according to the Web site.

Anonymous researchers--who include unnamed and unnumbered "analysts, forensic accountants, statisticians, computer experts, and lawyers"--will base their investigative reports on information "acquired through legal channels, fact-checked, and vetted thoroughly before release."

Their first target is a produce firm listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange that is under investigation by the Hong Kong government. Anonymous Analytics released a 38-page report (PDF) this week accusing Chaoda Modern Agriculture of China of deceiving shareholders and investors, falsifying financial statements, using a shell company to siphon money out, and perpetrating "one of the Hong Kong Exchange's largest, and longest running frauds." The report predicts that the company will be eventually delisted.

Despite the unorthodox provenance of the report, financial news service Reuters reported on it.

Representatives from Chaoda did not respond to a CNET request for comment via e-mail. A spokesman told Reuters that the company was looking at the report and might issue a statement later.

"Think of them as Muddy Waters on steroids: no regulation, no supervision, no accountability--just pure content, and credibility-driven merit (or, of course, lack thereof): a model which if validated will totally revolutionize the field of public company research," wrote a blogger on Zero Hedge.com.

The Financial Times interviewed an unidentified Anonymous Analytics researcher who explained the new focus on corporate financial activities and governance as "the logical next step."

"When you target a company's share price, suddenly the message gets heard really quick," the activist is quoted as saying.

In another article, an Anonymous Analytics researcher disclosed to the Financial Times that "associates, partners, affiliates, consultants, clients," and other parties have short positions on Chaoda's stock price and thus have an "indirect interest" if the share price drops.

Anonymous is using various methods to promote its anti-corporate, anti-censorship, pro-civil liberties messages. It used to just organize distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on targets like Sony, and repressive regimes in other countries in solidarity with Arab Spring uprisings, but is expanding its scope.

In offline activities Anonymous activists have promoted demonstrations in San Francisco to protest alleged police brutality by Bay Area Rapid Transit police. And more recently they have been active in the Occupy Wall Street protests. Anonymous supporters leaked personal information this week of a New York police officer who pepper sprayed a group of protesters in a holding area in what appears to be an unprovoked act, based on video footage. Hackers also released personal information for Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein.

Borrowing a page from the WikiLeaks whistleblower site, Anonymous launched LocalLeaks and HackerLeaks sites earlier this year for insiders and other hackers to leak sensitive information from governments and corporations.

Addendum, September 30, 11:32 a.m. PT: Apparently, this isn't the first foray of the Anonymous activists into the realm of corporate research. Self-proclaimed think tank Anonymous Operation Want launched early this year.