A group of activists that calls itself Anonymous has published a list of over 400 names of people it claims are members of the Ku Klux Klan. The list, which has yet to be verified, was published on text-sharing website Pastebin on Thursday after the group says it gained access to a Twitter account related to the white supremacist group.
The list was published as part of a campaign known as Operation KKK and was posted by the official Twitter account through which the campaign has been coordinated since last year. The group initially claimed the list was going to comprise of names of 1,000 individuals but they removed some names to carry out further investigations.
In a statement accompanying the list, the group said: "We hope Operation KKK will, in part, spark a bit of constructive dialogue about race, racism, racial terror and freedom of expression, across group lines. Public discourse about these topics can be honest, messy, snarky, offensive, humbling, infuriating, productive, and serious all at once. The reality is that racism usually does NOT wear a hood but it does permeate our culture on every level."
The group says that information about those on the list was gathered over a 12-month period, with the group claiming the KKK is made up of 150 active cells operating in 41 states, with membership concentrated in both the South and the Midwest. The Anonymous members who put together the list say it was gathered using "human intelligence data collection strategies" which consisted of interviewing expert sources as well as carrying out covert operations.
The names of those Anonymous claims are members of the KKK are listed in alphabetical order with links to social media accounts as well as some other identifying information, such as location, family members and what businesses they operate. Some of the names on the list are tagged as "Alias" which the group says are confirmed aliases used by members of the KKK.
The campaign was born out of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, last year when a local chapter of the Klan weighed into the debate by warning that it would use "lethal force" against anyone protesting on the streets of Ferguson. In response, Anonymous took control of the official Twitter account of the KKK chapter and published details of some members' identities. The group also claimed evidence of a connection between the Ferguson police and the KKK.
The group since claimed to have gained access to a second Twitter account from which it has gained access to the information published on Thursday. The KKK is the most infamous -- and oldest -- of American hate groups and having peaking with a membership of over three million back in the 1920s, today the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members, split among dozens of different -- and often warring -- organizations that use the Klan name.
Many people will be questioning the veracity of the identities included in the list following a number of leaks in the last week which also claimed to identify KKK members but proved to be bogus. On Monday four separate posts lists over 50 phone numbers and more than 25 email addresses of purported KKK members but these were shown to be inaccurate while a listing of nine politicians -- including four Senators -- posted online was also shown to be incorrect.
Neither of these lists were published by the group coordinating the Operation KKK action, and it tweeted to distance itself from those posts, claiming that it was not part of the official #OpKKK.
— Operation KKK (@Operation_KKK) November 2, 2015
Should the list published by Anonymous be shown to be inaccurate it would be a further blow to the credibility of a group who which many see as a group of petulant hackers who have no regard for the lives they disrupt. While critics of the group will point to the incorrect identification of the police officer who shot Mike Brown in Ferguson last year as evidence of the group's lack of credibility, the truth is that certain groups within Anonymous have shown they can make a real difference.
In 2012 a group of Anons known as KnightSec was involved in the high profile Steubenville [Ohio] High School rape case, helping to expose evidence which led to the indictment of schools superintendent Mike McVey for tampering with evidence to protect the two football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl.
Who Is Anonymous?
Anonymous is a tough group to categorize. It was spawned on the notorious messaging board 4Chan before becoming a global movement which embraced anarchy, revolt and protest. It has been involved in multiple online campaigns including Project Chanology, which was the group's campaign against the Church of Scientology, attacks on PayPal, and its involvement in the Arab Spring.
Membership of the group is constantly in flux, with the only membership criteria that you identify yourself as Anonymous. A better way to think of Anonymous is as an idea rather than a group with hundreds if not thousands of smaller groups under the Anonymous umbrella carrying out localized and specific actions, some of which conflict with each other. There is no organization and no hierarchical structure, though there are more prominent members of the group who hold a lot of sway over the millions of people who identify as Anonymous.
The Million Mask March, which has been taking place annually on Guy Fawkes Day since 2012, sees the group's activities move from the digital world into the real world, as hundreds of thousands of Anons taking to the street to protest against corruption and injustice, with the 2015 March taking place in over 600 locations around the world.
Or, as Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who wrote the book 'Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous' describes the group:
Peering through the computer, we find Anonymous in any instant to be an aggregate sack of flesh – meshed together by wires transistors and Wi-Fi signals – replete with miles of tubes pumping blood, pounds of viscera filled with vital fluids, an array of live signalling wires, propped up by a skeletal structure with muscular pistons fastened to it, and ruled from a cavernous dome holding a restless control centre, the analog of these fabulously grotesque and chaotically precise systems that, if picked apart, become what we call people.