“I was surprised because what I was seeing was suggestive but not definitive. Anonymous tends to care about its image quite a bit, and if they were wrong, it would be really bad.”
— Gabriella Coleman, who teaches at McGill University in Montreal and studies Anonymous, the hacktivist group. A Twitter account appearing to be with Anonymous on Thursday disclosed the name of who it said was the police officer who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, over the weekend. The name does not match the name of the officer the police department released today: Darren Wilson.
The Twitter account that released the incorrect name, @TheAnonMessage, was reportedly suspended by Twitter, but other accounts — such as @TheAnonMessage2 and @OpFerguson — also associated with Anonymous distanced themselves and said they had nothing to do with the release of the incorrect name; they continue to tweet news and commentary about the case. Anonymous is decentralized and has said it has no leader.
The stepmother of the man who was incorrectly blamed says she’s scared. “Anonymous has really gotten out of hand,” she said, according to USA Today.
The killing of Brown has sparked protests, some violent, in Ferguson over the past week. Witnesses have said the 18-year-old was unarmed when he was shot by Wilson. The protests have spread online: St. Louis County websites and email systems were reportedly knocked offline, and Anonymous released the address of St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.
We’ve written that Anonymous has targeted corporations, government agencies and more as part of various protests. The hackers have also taken action over police shootings elsewhere, according to the Washington Post.
Photo of Guy Fawkes mask, a symbol associated with Anonymous, from Reuters archives