An Interview with Crypt0nymous On Operation Maryville
BY Carola Frediani | Wednesday, October 30 2013
Last week a crowd of a few hundred people gathered at the courthouse square in Maryville, Missouri, along with dozens of reporters and a few people adorned in Guy Fawkes "Anonymous" masks. The international spotlight on this tiny college town would have been unthinkable even ten days earlier. Demonstrators, both in the streets and online, were supporting a teenage girl whose alleged rapist walked out of court without a single charge. Those protesting believed prosecutors dropped the charges because the suspect, a 17-year-old football player, was the grandson of Rex Barnett, a former state legislator.
Daisy Coleman, the alleged rape victim, has since spoken out openly through a number of T.V. interviews and web postings. She says that she was pressured to drink large amounts of alcohol by the young Barnett one night in January 2012 and then was subsequently raped. At the time she was 14. She was found the next morning unconscious on the the doorstep of her home dressed only in a t-shirt and sweatpants in 22 degree weather. Seven hours later at the hospital her blood alcohol level was still at 0.13, over six times the legal limit in Missouri for minors under 21. According to police, the boy confessed to the sexual encounter but said it was consensual. The charges were later dropped due to "a lack of evidence."
Coleman's family, however, kept fighting the case but was harassed to such an extent that they had to move 40 miles away from Maryville. Coleman was initially kicked off the cheer-leading team and tried to commit suicide twice. Her mother was inexplicably let go from her job. Their house in Maryville mysteriously burned down.
Then, the tables began to turn when on October 12, an investigative reporter from the Kansas City Star detailed the family's harrowing ordeal. Immediately afterward, Anonymous kicked in.
The loose hacktivist collective is well-known for targeting governments and corporations but in the past has also launched operations to shed light on at least two other teen rape cases: one in Steubenville, Ohio and another in Nova Scotia where the victim, Rehtaeh Parsons, committed suicide.
One particular hacker who goes by the handle "Crypt0nymous" has been a very active member of Anonymous. Gabriella Coleman (no relation to Daisy), an expert on hackers and digital activism who teaches at McGill University, explained in an e-mail to TechPresident that Crypt0nymous was "very much involved" in OpMaryville, as well as in the Stuebenville episode. In a recent in-depth report by Professor Coleman, Crypt0nymous is referred to as a 'young Anon.' According to Coleman, he has produced over 90 videos for Anonymous. One of his other videos was OpGTMO, which criticized Obama for failing to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
For OpMaryville, a small number of hacktivists launched a Twitterstorm using the hashtags #OpMaryville and #Justice4Daisy that became trending topics on Twitter. In addition, Crypt0nymous posted a Youtube video that gained 130,000 views in two days before it was disabled by the company. Users later uploaded it again here. “We are wondering: how do the residents of Maryville sleep at night?”, says an electronic voice in the video. “If the justice system has abandoned them [these young girls], then someone else will have to stand for them.”
Anonymous pressed authorities to reopen Coleman’s case and invited citizens to take action and released a a statement on October 14, explaining, "If Maryville won't defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if justice system has abandoned them, then we will have to stand for them. Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us." The next day, Missouri officials called for a new investigation.
Frediani is an Italian journalist and co-founder of the media agency, Effecinque.org. She writes on new technology, digital culture and hacking for a variety of Italian publications, including L’Espresso, Wired.it, Corriere della Sera, Sky.it. She is the author of Inside Anonymous: A Journey into the World of Cyberactivism.
Below is an edited version of her interview.
Frediani: You have been in Anonymous for a while. What are some of your past operations?
Crypt0nymous: Well, I cannot count them all. From the protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), [a controversial international trade agreement that tried to enforce draconian laws to protect copyrighted contents], to the actions against CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, that would have allowed companies to easily hand over users' private information to the government for security reasons. Or the operations to stop two U.S. anti-piracy bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). I also participated in the campaign helping the Arab Spring, and in the humanitarian crisis operations in the Middle East and Asia where we were supporting people’s protests. For instance, OpRohingya, where Anons tried to bring international attention to the Rohingya people of Burma who [according to a Human Rights Watch report] were being massacred.
Frediani: And you recently participated in OpMaryville…
Crypt0nymous: Yes, I’m involved. I’m one of the 4 to 5 creators of the operation. In the past I also worked with other people on the Steubenville case, doing some research, and 'doxing' [that is, exposing personal information about the alleged perpetrators].
Frediani: How do you get organized in these kind of operations usually?
Crypt0nymous: Sometimes we search for these kind of cases; or someone brings one of them to our attention. Sometimes it is just a matter of luck, bumping into the right article [like the one published in the Kansas City Star]. If one of us is informed about a case, usually we have a meeting where we first discuss it, than we start planning what we can do (hacks, Twitterstorms, protests). Once this is clear, everyone goes back and does his work. At the end we release a PR (Video + Text) package, launch a Twitterstorm and so on.
My video has been disabled by YouTube, and in the past they did the same with the OpRollRedRoll video about the Steubenville rape. But the great thing about Anonymous is that people directly copied and posted the video again. Well, there are also some idiots who tried to make money with it…
Frediani: Did you expect such an interest from people online?
Crypt0nymous: OpMaryville was not a big campaign like the ones against CISPA, SOPA, ACTA, etc. It was more of an operation based on conscience and justice. Many people, especially the youth, were affected by this story and the contents we produced about it. Social media has proved once more that it is more powerful than mainstream media. The Maryville operation was everywhere, from newspapers to social networks to bloggers. The video exposed the special treatment reserved for powerful and rich families by the justice system. A few days before [OpMaryville] I had said I would leave Anonymous, and it was kind of strange that I found myself at the front again.
Frediani: I read your blog post where you say you are leaving Anon, but not cyber-activism. So what prompted you to make this decision?
Crypt0nymous: I said I left Anonymous, but only the front. I will pass my contacts to those I trust and work with, but from now on I’ll do things under the label of RedHack. My personal opinion is that Anons are mostly expecting big hacks. I myself and many other activists were engaged in humanitarian crisis operations using Twitterstorms and a very large amount of hacktivism. And I think we reached more than some BIG hacks during the last few weeks. Our goal was to drive attention to the people in those countries.
What I’m saying is that Anonymous will never die, because its biggest hack was not a hack, it was to increase an appetite for protest worldwide. Anonymous played a role in pushing people to the streets; both hacks and the loudness of campaigns mobilized activists. People are wearing the Guy Fawkes masks because of Anonymous. Still, not everything is running so nice. There are different views on how to deal with activism, hacks and crowdfunding. Since I was already in touch with RedHack, I decided to get off from one boat and give them full support.
Frediani: How do they differ from Anons?
Crypt0nymous: Like I said I’ve known RedHack for months, but lately I got "tighter" relations with some of them. RedHack is a marxist-leninist hacktivist group founded in 1997 by 12 core members. This hacktivism is based on making information accessible to the public and on staying secret. RedHack is moving through a plan made of 10 levels: we are currently at level 4, with leaks, high ranking hacks and protests. Of course RedHack is more “political” than Anon, but they also had many [operations] against rapists. And now some Anons and some Redhack members are joining forces on this issue.
Frediani: And what are you going to do?
Crypt0nymous: After the injustice that has been made to Daisy and her friend, we decided to start something bigger. You see, it isn’t surprising that Anonymous brought the Maryville case to national attention, despite the fact that we were just 4 to 5 activists to start it all. My conscience forced me to help Daisy, even if i don’t know her. She is, for me, like a sister I have never seen. I talked to her family. She is starting a new life.
Frediani: What do you think Anons, RedHack members, and hacktivists should focus on more generally?
Crypt0nymous: Everything. Governments just act for they own profits, and not for people anymore. And we need to spread information. A revolutionary lives with information.
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