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Activism or Just Being an Asshole

November 13, 2015

Hacktivist collective group “Anonymous” has vowed to release contact information for approximately 1,000 people alleged to be members of the Ku Klux Klan (“KKK”) in an effort to shut the group down. This is the same group responsible for the Ashley Madison cyber breach just a few months back.

The group issued a statement promising the identities would be released through a twitter account:

“After closely observing so many of you for so very long, we feel confident that applying transparency to your organizational cells is the right, just, appropriate and only course of action. You are abhorrent. Criminal. You are more than extremists. You are more than a hate group. You operate much more like terrorists and you should be recognized as such. You are terrorists that hide your identities beneath sheets and infiltrate society on every level. The privacy of the Ku Klux Klan no longer exists in cyberspace.” — Operation KKK

On Monday, November 2, 2015 the group followed through and published its first batch of information including an unverified list of 57 phone numbers and 23 emails addresses belonging to unconfirmed KKK members. Members mentioned on the list were several U.S. senators and mayors. One of these “outings” was the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky Jim Gray and Senator Dan Coats, R-Ind., who both claim to not be affiliated with the organization. The full list of members is to be released on November 5, 2015 to coincide with the group’s “Million Mask March”

Former Confederate soldiers founded the KKK after the Civil War as a way of fighting against the reforms imposed by the North during the Reconstruction. The Klan saw a huge resurgence in the 1920s on a wave of anti-immigration, largely fueled by bigotry against Jews, Catholics, and blacks. The Klan gained popularity against in the 1950s and 1960s when it used murder and terror to stop the Civil Rights movement. Since then, the Klan has been severely weakened and now exists as a loose grouping of individual chapters that survive off racial hate.

The idea of abolishing the KKK is something that sounds great and absolutely something I believe most people could get behind and fully support. However, I feel that the release of alleged members is irresponsible and completely unfair. It seems like this release will trigger a new round of witch-hunts and examinations into the lives of people who may be completely innocent of the wrongdoing they will be charged with. Being a confirmed member of the KKK is career suicide for probably any person in the professional world but doubly so for elected officials. For southern representatives, in addition to being wrong, being a member of the KKK would alienate at least ½ of your voting population and constituents. It would completely destroy your credibility and in our day, being labeled a racist is almost as bad as being named a communist was during McCarthyism.

When Anonymous hacked the Ashley Madison website, it was fun and exciting. These were people who, of their own free will, signed up and paid money to a site designed to cheat on their spouses. These people were the scum of the scum. On one hand, I can certainly see how members of the Ashley Madison site could be compared with members of the KKK. However, the idea of potentially ruining people’s lives by throwing unsupported allegations around is so distasteful to me. With the Ashley Madison breach, there were credit cards and email addresses to support the identities of these people. Here it seems like Anonymous got their information by joining the sites themselves. The group has not revealed how they have come across the names they have; only stating that they hacked their sites.

As someone involved with politics, I am on a number of political newsletters and the mailing lists for candidates I would never support simply because my information was given to a cause I do support and was then transferred it to one I do not. To say that I support a specific cause or candidate simply because they have my email address is a completely inaccurate representation of the facts and certainly not credible evidence.

My other issue with this newest data dump is that the group is still hiding behind the safety of the Internet. They are violating people’s privacy while remaining completely private. They are committing these cyber crimes and acting almost as badly as the KKK members themselves. Anonymous wants to create a better society when they could clearly be defaming people and not facing retribution. It seems pretty hypocritical. 

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