Matthew Keys, the Reuters journalist who was indicted last month on charges of conspiring with Anonymous to hack into the Los Angeles Times' website, has been fired from his position as Reuters’ social media editor. He says his termination was related to coverage of the capture of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, not his federal indictment for hacking.
On Monday, Keys, 26, announced on Twitter that he had been fired from his social media job at Reuters.
“Just got off the phone. Reuters has fired me, effective today. Our union will be filing a grievance. More soon,” Keys tweeted on Monday.
Soon after Keys announced his termination on Twitter, he explained the situation in more detail on his personal blog. In his statement, Keys clarified that his termination was not related to his indictment. Keys did admit, however, that he was previously suspended from Reuters over the indictment.
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“Immediately [after making the announcement], social journalists and news organizations drew a parallel between my firing and a criminal indictment that came down last month. While my suspension was related to the indictment, it’s unclear if my firing had anything to do with it. The company mentioned the suspension several times, but they did not mention the case nor did they mention the indictment,” Keys wrote.
Instead, Keys claims he was fired over his coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. Early Friday morning, Keys tweeted out several assertions overheard on the Boston police scanner, and many of them later turned out to be untrue.
Though Keys later retracted the errors, Reuters is apparently concerned that people would associate the erroneous information with its news organization. Keys stated that he is required by a contract with Reuters to stipulate in his Twitter bio that he is employed by the news organization, even while suspended and not officially reporting with Reuters. He claims this is a “Catch-22.”
Keys also claims that he is represented by a union, which will soon be launching a case against Reuters.
Also on Tuesday, Keys pleaded not guilty in Sacramento, Calif., to the federal hacking charges against him, according to the Associated Press. According to his plea, he was present in a chat room in which Anonymous members discussed hacking into the Tribune Co. database in order to change the headline of a December 2010 story, but he did not personally provide the login information to the Tribune systems.
"He was a journalist in that chat room, absolutely. But, I mean, he didn't do the acts he's accused of doing," Keys’ attorney Jay Leiderman told the AP.
According to the indictment (available in full in a PDF format), Keys has been indicted for revealing the log-in information to the Los Angeles Times website and then encouraging hackers to disrupt the server. At least one hacker did enter the site and make changes to a story from Dec. 14, 2010, headlined “Pressure builds in House to pass tax-cut package.” At the time of the hacking, Keys had recently been fired by a Sacramento television station owned by the Tribune Co.
In another related hacking arrest, Reuters reports that Australian police arrested a senior member of the Anonymous offshoot group LulzSec on Wednesday for hacking into websites owned by Sony, 20th Century Fox and Nintendo.