Anonymous Twitter Suspended Amid St. Louis Police Hack; Other Anon Accounts Decry Naming Officer

 @JeffStone500j.stone@ibtimes.com on August 14 2014 4:28 PM
Ferguson
The FAA has lifted a temporary flight restriction over Ferguson, Missouri, where people have rioted over the death of Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a police officer. Reuters

The St. Louis County Police confirmed to multiple outlets Thursday that the department has been hit by a cyberattack, with the agency’s website and emails down since Wednesday. Word of the hack came at the same time Twitter suspended the account of the Anonymous hacker collective, who've been feuding with the police online over details withheld in the Mike Brown shooting.

The confirmation also comes after the Ferguson, Missouri, police reported their system was infiltrated, with Anonymous claiming responsibility for briefly rendering the department’s phones and computers useless.  

The cyberwarfare comes amid intense national focus on the death of Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American who, witnesses allege, was shot by white police officers who then left his corpse lying face down in broad daylight for hours. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced that the St. Louis County Police Department would be removed from the investigation, with peaceful protesters complaining that the heavily militarized police had been pointing weapons at civilians.

Few details were known about the St. Louis cyberattack, though the department’s official Twitter feed had traded barbs with @TheAnonMessage after the now-defunct feed claimed to identify the officer who killed Brown Saturday. 

The fallout in the wake of TheAnonMessage’s decision to publicize the officer’s name without any kind of due process is also a reminder that the loosely affiliated collective is just that: loosely affiliated. Tweets from @OpFerguson (each cause Anonymous involves itself with it designated its own Twitter feed, with @OpSteubenville a prominent past example) made it clear that not all of the hackers involved supported the decision to publicly identify someone.

Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who studies the group and is the author of the upcoming book chronicling the history of Anonymous, told the New York Times that members of Anonymous were arguing about releasing the unverified information in chat rooms.

“My jaw was dropping,” she said. “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.” 

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