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Steubenville and Anonymous/LocalLeaks

Something I want to ask: what do you think of LocalLeaks/Anonymous publishing so much about this case online? People are making the point that they aren't (as far as anyone knows) journalists or affiliated with any legitimate newsgathering organization. They are publishing addresses and phone numbers for people who would prefer these things remained private, and they are making accusations that have not been proven in a court of law. In fact, any defense attorney could make the case, if any of these young men ended up in an adult court, that the jury pool has been unutterably biased by all of the information that Anonymous/LocalLeaks has put out on the Internet and made available for people to talk about.

In this case, I'm not sure what to think. To me it looks like the Weirton girl's violation had been buried by Steubenville's authorities; that she was going to get no justice whatsoever before blogger Alexandria Goddard on Prinnified.com (I have yet to get a link to this site to work) started to make a stink and kept making a stink until other bloggers and media outlets picked it up. This unnamed girl who, it seems now, went to a volleyball team party, got talked into going into another party, and was roofied on the way there, would have been forced to live with jokes, sneers, trash talk, trash tweets, and all the ways small towns can torture a girl until she somehow managed to get away, if she could. If she didn't try a more drastic kind of escape. And these guys would have gone on to another girl, and the guys who followed them would have picked up where they left off. I am finding it very hard to give Anonymous/LiveLeaks the nanny booboo finger over this.

And that's their genius. When they target people who many of us would love to hate, then what they do--breaking into computers and e-mail, all the other breaches of privacy they commit, crashing the systems of big companies that run areas of countries we don't like--we're ready to cheer for them.

But what, say, if they crashed the Social Security system to make a point? How many retirees do you know are on Social Security as all or part of their income? What if they took down an entire airport, or a nuclear power plant (there are movies about the results of capers like those)? What if they decided a certain bank had evil credit and loan practices, and wiped its files, with your records of payments?

Robin Hood or Robber? Which are they? I am damned if I know. What about you? What do you think?


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC)
I was reading about Anonymous yesterday... I find myself supporting them, more or less, until (or if) they do something stupid. I figure if the Westboro baptist church think they can abuse free speech by crashing funerals (for the sake of a disgusting cause at that) they deserve any and every (non-violent) abuse they get.

I also note that they supported the occupy movement and were urging peaceful protests when things got a little out of hand.

And they attack pedophiles and oppose laws like the anti-homosexuality ones proposed in Uganda.

They've done some things I don't agree with, but I don't know that I'd consider the things they have so far done bad. Yet.

I remain cynical... but for now I think they're fine.
Jan. 4th, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC)
I support them. As far as you can support them really. Because while they work under one name, anyone can use that name. Anon are not a single unified group, and I think that confuses people.

There was someone in the UK who hacked an abortion clinic and released that info under the anonymous name. I don't support that. But when you get people doing things like the Westboro stuff under the Anon tag, I support that.

I don't think that they're the big problem tbh. I think they're a response to it.
Jan. 4th, 2013 10:41 pm (UTC)
also, they're saying these men would never get a fair trial, but it seems as though the authorities in that town were working to ensure they would never get a trial at all. so...
Jan. 4th, 2013 10:26 pm (UTC)
The media is heavily biased (it's all about sensationalisism), so outside sources are becoming more accurate or atleast give us a more balanced view of things. We get to find out about these things that would otherwise be hidden away.

As for breaking the law... we all break the law all the time, speeding, sharing music, etc... Yes they say they are 'hacking' computers, but there is a lot of stuff you can do that people would call 'hacking' but which is just being very good at getting data out of the internet. The amount of information out there on the internet is rather easy to find and get to. It could have been as simple as making a fake FB account and getting added to these guy's accounts and finding the information out that way. There is not much privacy any more. (I'm a web programmer and learned young that there is no privacy on the internet. Therefore I've learned to live my life in a way where I am not embaressed by whatever may be found out about me.) These guys did something far beyond some data mining.

What I fear for is the reaction the public will have, and can take against these guys, when it should be the legal system that takes care of them. Sadly the legal system often fails which is the sad truth, but one still has to believe in it. For Public Shaming is not going to fix thing and is just another name for justifying bullying.
Jan. 5th, 2013 02:20 am (UTC)
The media is heavily biased (it's all about sensationalisism), so outside sources are becoming more accurate or atleast give us a more balanced view of things. We get to find out about these things that would otherwise be hidden away.

Professional journalist throwing his two cents in here :)

While I don't dispute your sentiment, I'd argue that the modern media is not "heavily biased" so much as it's becoming biased - inexcusably so, through the influence of market forces. Few are the journalists, editors and producers able to stand up to the corporations, shareholders' boards and managerial types demanding "audience-driven" content. That means any story which receives a lot of hits online, or prompts further social media discussion, is deemed to be "important" and journalists are instructed to chase down any and all stories along the same lines. So if, say, a story about hospital overcrowding or rape "earns" less attention than Kanye's latest public incident, the media organisation will shift focus away from those important issues and toward fluff and sensationalism.

Again: I don't offer this as an excuse because, as one within the system, I find it inexcusable and intolerable. It's not what I signed up for. I guess I'm being pedantic and just want people to know what's really happening to our journalists and media sources, instead of putting it down to bias. It's worse, in some ways, but not as heinous in others. It's... well, it's damn uncomfortable, and very difficult to feel a sense of pride about one's job :(

TL;DR - modern journalism isn't biased as much as it's unintelligent and sucky, and we as a public therefore need outside sources to provide balance and, yes, expose things that might otherwise be ignored in the constant chase for ratings/clicks. My hope is the media will, sometime soon, come to realise this and restablish itself as a monitor of those outside sources - because there's always a place for professional, "educated" analysis of what goes on in the world.
Jan. 4th, 2013 11:30 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that this particular crime can't be swept under the rug anymore, and I'm glad that the victim has a chance to get justice now. And overall Anonymous seems to be exercising better judgment than I would have expected when they first came to prominence, so for now, at least, I guess I mostly support them.
Jan. 4th, 2013 11:41 pm (UTC)
So far... I haven't seen them use their powers for (macro) evils. Certainly, hackers have used their nefarious means, but usually on the micro level. If they can keep this kind of thing up.... I'm willing to call it a net positive for the universe.
Jan. 4th, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
Anonymous have always been operating in this gray zone - and I have yet to see any real big action by Anonymous that would cross the line.

In Germany they first got "famous" for action taken against Scientology. Then, they came back in full force against ACTA, but in between, there has always been going on a lot.

The thing ist: the "big" stuf Anonymous are doing are only possible becuase with the big action, there are a lot of paricipants. But since no-one is actually the "masterbrain" behind Anonymous, the people participating only do so if they want, the danger of THAT MANY people participating to get a really big hit on something that will affect a LOT of bystanders in a real bad way... those odds are not all that high. And if a bank can gte ALL their records deleted by an outside power... I would rather know that this bank sucks so much in terms of data security, so I can get to another bank, and FAST. (seriously, Anonymous is not actually that "good" - and most of the stuff they did was more annoying than hurtful (like arraging so many hits on a site that the servers crash...), and not seldom the "published" information is not all that private - and could be accessible for anyone already, if he searched right.)

So basically: I don't think Anonymous is actually that big of a danger for the "normal" bystander. They are working in a gray zone, and I don't agree with all their actions - but neither does anyone who actually is a participant in any Anonymous activity, since they just are a network of people who exchange Ideas for "Robin Hood"-like projekcts - and with every project, everyone can and will decide, if he is participating again.
Jan. 5th, 2013 12:08 am (UTC)
I am very critical of internet vigilantism, or really vigilantism in general. For me, it's not even about the dangers of what hackers or vigilantes could go on to do - I find it problematic enough if they go after crimes that are sure to (rightfully) enrage people and release personal information related to those crimes, with people then deciding to harass and/or "punish" the alleged perpetrators, without any process to check whether they pointed to guilty persons.

In most countries, there is a justice system for a reason. If, as it seems in the Steubenville case (which I don't know much about) that justice system utterly failed, then the right point of attack would be to reveal the corruption in the justice system. I can't really see what revealing the alleged perpetrators' and apparently also the victim's personal information accomplishes in that respect - except to stir up people who take "justice" into their own hands. This case seems to have needed publicity in order to negate the local hushing up, and it also seems to shine a light on what terrible things can happen if local communities decide that "boys will be boys" - it's good that that publicity was achieved and that consequences will hopefully follow. I just don't think that releasing the personal information is helpful.

Some years ago, there was an online video in which a young woman was shown drowning puppies. It garnered a lot of outrage in certain online communities, who tried to find the person responsible. Someone posted the full personal information of a young Bavarian woman online, claiming she was the perpetrator. She received all kinds of abuse, including death threats that were taken so seriously that she was assigned police protection. Her full personal information is still online with claims that she did this; I found it in two minutes of googling. The problem with the whole thing: She had nothing to do at all with what happened; the perpetrator was a completely unrelated woman from Croatia, and someone who seems to have had it in for the Bavarian girl threw her to the masses. Googling the name of the girl who was accused still gives pages and pages of results, all having to do with puppies being drowned. If she wants any kind of professional future, I guess she will need to change her name and make sure no one connects it with her old one.

And then we had this - a teenager here in Germany was arrested in relation to a girl's murder. He was quickly released again (and another person was found to have committed the murder), but not before a lynch mob, incited through Facebook etc., had gathered outside the police station and demanded to have the teenager handed to them. His personal information, too, became known in his home town.

So, whenever I see people saying in online discussions of crimes "Oh, I hope Anonymous gets on the case!" and applauding vigilantism, I think of those two young people, who were threatened by people convinced they were "doing the right thing" and going after people who had done terrible things, because by a system without any checks and balances someone somewhere had decided they were guilty.

Here in Germany, personal information of people involved in crimes and accidents is protected - this includes victims, people accused of crimes, and people who are convicted of them. Neither state authorities nor the press may reveal them. I think there are good reasons for this.
Jan. 5th, 2013 12:21 am (UTC)
Personally, I am against all these wikileaks/anonymous hacks, everything. Part of it is because of what I do- I'm a naval officer, and I have absolutely zero sympathy for Private Manning in his prosecution for releasing classified material to a foreign run website. It's treason, plain and simple. I have a very black-and-white view over releasing protected information, and in the government there are very clear definitions of what is considered protected (even if NOT classified) material, and home addresses, SSNs, even phone numbers do actually count as such.

I have a very similar views on these things, as much as I abhor the rape and assault on this young women. If there is information out there that would not normally be readily available, than these hackers and Anonymous groups have no business putting that information out there. One reason is, as you said, tainting a potential jury pool, seeing as our legal system ought to be "innocent until proven guilty." Things like this can lead to case dismissals, or approved appeals later on due to jury tampering or unfairness.

Another is, what if Anonymous identifies the wrong person? What happens when another innocent gets harrassed and vilified and their lives made living hell, for something they didn't do?

Did the Steubenville police do their job in this case? It is hard to say. Does it look, from the outside, like there was a huge cover up to protect everyone but the victim? Absolutely. But why should the rest of us put the defense of this woman at risk?

This whole situation has turned my stomach since I first heard about it. But I will never support what Anonymous and their ilk do, even when it is in support of causes I support.

Edited at 2013-01-05 12:22 am (UTC)
Jan. 5th, 2013 12:52 am (UTC)
The thing about Anonymous... well, the thing is that it's made of people. People from pretty much all ages and backgrounds and classes, everybody from the ten-year-old hacking her school's records for the lulz to the wangsty teenager who should burn their poetry to the ninety-year-old grandpa who shows off his tattoos at church gatherings. And the thing about everybody is that it eventually includes the patriarchy-soaked rectal phrenologists who would be quite happy to cheer for the attackers and join in shaming the victim.

All that said, I find it really difficult to be mad at people who are actually trying to see real justice done.
Jan. 5th, 2013 01:07 am (UTC)
I tend to think that most morality is contextual: what Anonymous does would be wrong if done to innocents, but is fine when it's someone we know deserves it.

As has been pointed out above, "know" is a bit of a sticking point, though, and there are questions of interfering with the justice system and so forth. So, in the end, I'm fine with them when their targets are public organizations like Westboro and Scientology, but less so when they're individual people and the potential for error is greater.
Jan. 5th, 2013 01:32 am (UTC)
They're both, to be perfectly honest. They can be really horrible people, but they can also be really amazing people. And I don't feel that posting the real-life addresses of anyone is a good idea, ever, because it could endanger someone, but making a stink about something like this is something that absolutely should be done.
Jan. 5th, 2013 01:34 am (UTC)
I go case-by-case. So far, I am 100% behind them on the Westboro action. I would even donate what lil money I have to help the cause, and whatever time/service I could.

This Steubenville issue...as someone pointed out, the people who SHOULD be targeted (I guess), are the people who are letting these guys get away with it, but at the same time...if Anon/Local JUST focused on those enablers, then the rapists would probably end up getting off scott free, and THAT I can't stand the thought of.

So I guess you could say I'm 75% behind them? I think they're on the right track going after the rapists, but I also think they need to target/expose the people who are trying to let them get away with the assault.

Jan. 5th, 2013 02:22 am (UTC)

If you're interested in learning more about Anonymous, in order to fully crystalise your views (whatever they may end up being), I heartily recommend this to you. It's called We Are Legion and it's an independently-produced, 100 per cent free online documentary about the movement, its driving forces and its history. The whole thing's up online at that link and it's fascinating viewing. It's certainly helped me figure out where I stand on these guys and gals.
Jan. 5th, 2013 05:49 am (UTC)
TW: R*pe
A very small part of me is conflicted on this. I hate that the victim's name is now out there because she has already dealt with something so horrific.

But the vast majority is glad that Anon is on the job. The people that should have done their jobs in Steubenville in the first place completely failed. They tried sweeping this under a rug, hoping to make it go away because after all, these are "good boys" and "football is king" and "really, she may have not been raped" and whatever other revolting bullshit excuses they were making up just to make this go away. If Alexandria Goddard and then Anon hadn't stepped up and made such a big stink, would anyone outside of Steubenville even be aware of this? Would ANY of them ever have been brought to justice?

Personally, as I put it on my face book, this is what I want to see happen.

Anyone that physically assaulted her or put drugs in her drinks so she could be assaulted be tried for rape. Anyone that helped carry her from house to house or held her down, be tried for accessory to rape. Anyone that took picture or video and posted it on the internet be tried for possessing and distributing child porn. And all of these people? Be made to register as sex offenders. Anyone that assisted in covering up all of this? Be tried for whatever they can under the current local and state statutes. Bring in special prosecutors to handle this-preferably Federal. Make examples of them all.

And the school district needs to vacate any and all wins by the football team and keep them out of any playoff games this season. Any players involved who are not graduating this year? Off the team for good. I don't buy the "but they are good boys. Don't ruin their lives" BS that is prevalent. You know what? They are teenagers and old enough to know right from wrong. And if you (as a parent) didn't teach them that you do not assault another human being then you need to let them live with the consequences. Which may include jail time and a permanent record. As a sex offender.
Jan. 5th, 2013 11:22 pm (UTC)
Re: TW: R*pe
THIS + 10000000000000000000000000000000
Joe Wheeler
Jan. 6th, 2013 05:20 am (UTC)
Re: TW: R*pe
The victims name has never been put forth by Anon, she has been know only as Jane Doe. The victims family also sent word at the rally held today thanking Anon for giving them a voice.
Elizabeth Gross
Jan. 14th, 2013 01:21 am (UTC)
Re: TW: R*pe
"I don't buy the "but they are good boys. Don't ruin their lives" BS that is prevalent. You know what? They are teenagers and old enough to know right from wrong. And if you (as a parent) didn't teach them that you do not assault another human being then you need to let them live with the consequences. Which may include jail time and a permanent record. As a sex offender."

THIS. "Good boys" don't rape people. Did that girl deserve to have *her* life ruined because they made the conscious decision to commit a terrible, violent crime against her? Society at large needs to be protected from people whose version of a "simple mistake" involves rape.
Elizabeth Irvin
Jan. 5th, 2013 07:43 am (UTC)
it's a matter of balance
I tend to think of the actions of Anonymous as similar to acts of civil disobedience. I think it's up to the individual to decide whether the point being made or the information being released is worth the punishment. If you're not willing to accept significant negative consequences for an action, that's a pretty good indication you probably shouldn't proceed.

In this particular case, I feel that the light shined on this horrendous crime is probably the best chance of providing the victim with any modicum of justice. And that's worth a hell of a lot. But if any crimes were committed in the process, those who committed them should be held responsible. It seems to me that's the only way we can balance the multitude of moral grey areas in life.

(This mindset may be a result of reading about Tortallan chivalry at an impressionable age...)
Jan. 5th, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
Robin Hood or Robber? Which are they? I am damned if I know. What about you? What do you think?

Both. Having met some of the British contingencies of Anons at various events, much like any group of people, there are vastly different types. Some are intelligent, articulate and ethical. Some are silly socially-stunted misogynist gamer-types who I wouldn't give the time of day to until they grew up a bit and wised up to life outside Call of Duty Whatevernumberitisnow. I am glad they (generally) choose to whistleblow ethically and reveal institutional failings. With my left-wing-commie-socialist-down-with-Thatcher-and-misogynist-right-wing-oppression-rebel hat on I like them. However, with my elected official hat on, we have laws for a reason, and every action has consequences.
Jan. 5th, 2013 05:44 pm (UTC)
The reason it feels good when it happens to people like the alleged rapists in OH is because we like to get revenge on people we perceive as wrongdoers. And it is revenge; not justice. In this particular case, here is the truth: whether these boys are guilty or not, legally they are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers. And any judge worth the robe and any defense attorney worth their pay will argue that these "hacktivists" have tainted their potential jury pool and demand a mistrial. This will delay justice for the sixteen year old girl who has been violated, and that is why I can't support what they've done.
Jan. 23rd, 2013 02:36 am (UTC)
Yes yes yes. My problem with Anonymous is that the whole thing smacks of vengeance, not justice. Mobs aren't very good at justice, whether they're lined up with torches or FB posts. Also, I get the uneasy feeling that people aren't following this through to its possible consequences.

The Westboro nutjobs. What if they decided that the next logical step in their campaign was to start posting names and addresses of gay people? They could slap my name up on a list online and I could be fired. I don't think I'm in serious danger, but I work for a conservative company in Virginia. They could look me in the eye tomorrow and say, "We're firing you because we don't approve of your lifestyle." And there is nothing I could do about it, because being gay is not a protected class and Virginia is a right-to-work state. Westboro Baptist Church would hand out merit badges all around.

I'm not sure I see the difference between that hypothetical example and what Anonymous is doing, except that I agree with Anonymous's end goal. It can't be OK when "we" do it and not OK when "they" do it.
Jan. 5th, 2013 11:44 pm (UTC)
I think that anyone looking to make an expose that big ought to think carefully about how their mission could damage itself. Anonymous doesn't seem to be run by legal or financial experts, but they have technological knowledge on their side, which makes them a huge contender as well as a danger to themselves or to innocent bystanders. </p>

In the instance of a high-profile trial, the jury in any case is bound to be biased the more prominent the trial is. Trying to find an impartial jury would be nearly impossible anyway, so I don't think much damage has been done here. But if we were talking about hacking a major system - say, a large financial institution, or a database of personally identifying information - then a hacker group had better come up with a plan to shield innocents from their plans. They'd have to plan against themselves, in other words.

By the way, I think those kids should be tried as adults. Just to throw that out there.

Jan. 6th, 2013 05:27 am (UTC)
The whole wiping of financial records reminds me of what happened in Fight Club? I think things could easily get out of hand.
Jan. 7th, 2013 01:16 pm (UTC)
This is always the trouble with Anonymous. At the end of the day, they are a group of people, and any group of people is capable of both good and bad. The difference with Anonymous is that they have no leadership or universal guiding philosophy. Any rules they purportedly have are either memetic or simply loose guidelines. If one Anon takes up a cause, others may or may not follow depending on their own personal feelings. They are pirates, pure and simple. But yes, sometimes you need a pirate.
Jan. 8th, 2013 01:00 am (UTC)
It's true that, given the context, you'd be hardpressed to shake your head and scold the young men who did this because the context is a girl who was wrong treated and not given justice. But the problem is the same as with all kinds of vigilante-type justices: where do they stop, and how do you differentiate between what is "just" and what is not when things get sticky? Sure, civilian-based justices can see through what is "fair" in some situations because they are free of corruption and unimpeded by legality, but it's a question of whether or not you're willing to compromise overall security and protection of privacy for that. Yes, those breaking the laws in the first place are taking advantage of the system, and the others are simply exposing them in a kind of public punishment that is frowned upon by our government but is wholly satisfying for those who want to see them get their just desserts, but...

I don't know enough about the case to make a stance on it. But I find it hard to stand up and applaud them if only I don't want to leave myself vulnerable to making a fuss if they turn to other "justices" that may or may not be "right".
Rachel Wilson
Jan. 9th, 2013 06:05 pm (UTC)
Mark Reads
I don't know if you've been keeping up to date with Mark Reads, but he's finishing The Song of the Lioness and is on to Wild Magic. He's been posting youtube videos of his reading/his reactions here: http://www.youtube.com/user/xpanasonicyouthx?feature=watch

I hope you enjoy :)
Jan. 9th, 2013 06:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Mark Reads
I've absolutely been following Mark Reads! I like him so much I asked Tim to add his side permanently to my website!
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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