Anonymous Takes on a Baptist Church
YourAnonNews, a Twitter account used by members of Anonymous to relay messages pertinent to the hacktivist movement, has been suspended.
Twitter users aligned with Anonymous and other online collectives announced the suspension just shy of 12 noon EST on Wednesday, December 19. Minutes later, another account affiliated with the group reported that YourAnonNews was suspended for allegedly sharing links to personal information.
“You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information,” the @Anon_Central Twitter account says they were told by the social network.
After over an hour, the YourAnonNews account was restored. The group returned to Twitter by posting a message they allegedly received from the Twitter Trust and Safety department confirming that sharing personal information was responsible for the suspension.
YourAnonNews has received added attention in recent days following a campaign-gone-viral that has targeted the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), an infamous religious group that has planned to picket the memorials of the victims of last week’s school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Only hours after the massacre, members of the church said they’d be demonstrating outside of Sandy Hook Elementary School to protest the funerals of over two dozen people slain by 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza. In response, Anonymous members asked others from within the international hacktivism collective to help silence the WBC’s attempt to disrupt the memorial.
“We will not allow you to corrupt the minds of America with your seeds of hatred. We will not allow you to inspire aggression to the social factions which you deem inferior. We will render you obsolete. We will destroy you. We are coming,” members of Anonymous said in a statement released over the weekend.
As the operation against WBC escalated, members of Anonymous posted home addresses, cell phone contacts and Social Security numbers for leading figures within the church. As recently as Thursday morning, YourAnonNews and other Twitter accounts affiliated with the movement tweeted information regarding the suspected whereabouts of Westboro members who had already arrived in Newtown.
The evening prior, members of the online trolling group Rustle League claimed to have hacked the YourAnonNews account. Members of Rustle League attributed themselves with hijacking the Anonymous account as posting a series of tweets directing users to x-rated imagery, although the statement cited by @Anon_Central suggests that it was the sharing of sensitive personal information pertaining to the church that triggered the suspension.
Only days before the suspension, YourAnonNews announced that they had created a back-up account in case of such an event. Minutes after the original account was suspended, YANBackUP announced that they were requesting more information from Twitter.
With over 700,000 registered followers, YourAnonNews is among the most widely cited Twitter accounts affiliated with the international hacktivism movement. As an unofficial conduit for a loose-knit hive-mind collective, YourAnonNews has been instrumental in announcing operations and missions led by Anonymous. Throughout 2012, those operations have been among the most daring in the movement’s history, targeting governments and federal agencies not just in the United States but across the world.
Following the January 2012 shut-down of the Megaupload.com file-storage site, members of Anonymous waged an online assault on the US Justice Department and the high-powered lobbyists who opposed the website. In that instance, Anons took credit for momentarily taking offline the websites for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the DoJ, the Recording Industry Associate of America (RIAA) and others.
One month later, the WikiLeaks whistleblower site began publishing a massive trove of emails obtained by Anonymous from the Stratfor global intelligence firm. That correspondence has since provided first-hand accounts for several international news stories involving law enforcement corruption and mass surveillance.
Barrett Brown, an activist who has formerly been linked to Anonymous, said, “The Stratfor operation may yield the most revelatory trove of information ever seized” by the collective.
Later on in 2012, Anons helped orchestrate a mass operation to take down websites belonging to the Israeli Defense Forces and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his forces opened fire on civilians on the Gaza Strip. By taking the real-world war onto the Internet, Anonymous made headlines around the globe.
When the FBI infiltrated the group and arranged for mass arrests earlier this year, YourAnonNews tweeted, “We don’t have a leader . . . A movement against authority without leaders drives authority insane; they can’t break down a movement by corrupting the leader.”
“Don’t you get it by now? #Anonymous is an idea. #Anonymous is a movement. It will keep growing, adapting and evolving, no matter what,” the account opined after the arrests of Anons.
Following Wednesday’s suspension, the back-up account wrote, “Remember, YAN isn’t Anonymous… just a part. We move on.”