Get ready for Anonymous vs. the Ku Klux Klan, round two.
It’s been nearly a year since members of the Guy Fawkes mask–wearing hacktivist group took over the hood-wearing hate group’s Twitter feed and website. To commemorate that action, which was in response to the KKK’s threats to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, Anonymous is back with “Operation KKK,” an effort it says will once again expose alleged members of the Klan.
In late October, the Anonymous members behind the Operation KKK Twitter account tweeted that they had gained access to yet another Ku Klux Klan Twitter account and would use the information to reveal KKK members. Over the weekend, the hacking group seemed poised to make good on its threat.
“Today we have shut down servers, gotten personal information on members of the KKK, and infiltrated your twitters and websites. And this is just the beginning,” reads a statement from Operation KKK published on Pastebin on Sunday. “On November the 4th we will be having a twitter storm, spreading awareness about the operation. And on the 5th we shall release more than 1000 Ku Klux Klan members names and websites, new and old.”
But on Sunday and Monday, alleged members of Anonymous, which has no formal leadership, published four separate lists with the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of purported KKK members—including four U.S. senators and five city mayors. As as result, the hacking collective came under fire from critics on social media for sharing erroneous information.
On Monday, the YourAnonNews Twitter account seemed to distance itself from the dump of information.
Several of the politicians named also took to social media to deny that they are members of the Klan.
Madeline Rogero, the mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, who was one of the public officials included in the lists, posted a lengthy denial of KKK membership on her Facebook page. “Given my background, my interracial family, my public record and my personal beliefs, this would be hilarious, except that it is probably being seen by a lot of people who have no idea who I am,” Rogero wrote.
An Anonymous member, Anon6K, who claimed to be the founder of an #OpKKK channel wrote to TakePart on Monday that the list is not part of the “official” Anonymous dump of KKK members, and that Rogero was erroneously included.
“That list was not released by us. And me and my team do not believe she is a member of the KKK,” wrote Anon6K. A tweet on the Operation KKK Twitter feed later announced, “This account has NOT YET released any information. We believe in due diligence and will NOT recklessly involve innocent individuals #OpKKK.”
Anon6K, who would only identify as a male living in North America, apologized profusely to Rogero.
“I would like to say here and now, Mayor Madeline Rogero, I am sorry this has happened to you, we never planned to mention your name, and we can’t find a trace of the KKK around you. My team wanted me to make this especially clear that we did not take part in that release,” Anon6K wrote.
Anon6K also wrote he “partially” agrees it’s irresponsible to publish lists of alleged KKK members if innocent people may inadvertently be caught up in it. But “those who are innocent will be proven as such,” he wrote.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, although the number of hate groups in the United States increased from 602 in 2000 to 784 in 2014, Ku Klux Klan membership is on the decline. The watchdog group estimates that there are 4,000 to 6,000 Klan members across the country, down from 40,000 members in the 1960s.
Anon6K acknowledged that the “KKK isn’t the only group out there, just the most known. Its [sic] possible for someone to be racist and not apart of any group really.”
Moreover, given that people of color deal with racially segregated schools, sometimes still have to “whiten” their name on a résumé to get a response from a hiring manager, and are even more likely to breathe polluted air, some folks might say that hooded members of the KKK are not the biggest threat to the welfare and prosperity of people of color in the U.S.
But despite their relatively small numbers, KKK members in positions of authority can still exert power and influence. In April, three corrections officers in Florida who were identified as KKK members were arrested for plotting to murder a black prison inmate after his release.
As Anon6K wrote to TakePart, it’s “important that people know who they’re dealing with.”
In the statement released on Sunday, Operation KKK wrote that revealing who members of the Ku Klux Klan are does not affect a person’s freedom of speech or constitutional rights. “You are legally free to live and be any which way you choose to live and be,” Operation KKK wrote, addressing KKK members. “Keep in mind, it is not illegal nor oppressive to hurt your feelings. With that said, we are stripping you of your anonymity.”
To that end, Anon6K wrote to TakePart that, starting at 10 a.m. CST on Thursday, Nov. 5, Operation KKK would begin the real dump of its Ku Klux Klan member list.
“It is not out of the realm of possibility that a politician is a member of the KKK,” wrote Anon6K. “In fact my personal list has a few members that would surprise you.”
One Ku Klux Klan–related Twitter feed, the Militant Knights KKK, reacted on Sunday to news of Anonymous’ actions by suggesting that it might “do an anti anonymous march.”
In case the Ku Klux Klan thinks it’s off the hook after Nov. 5 comes and goes, Anon6K wrote that the group would continue revealing the identities of alleged members: “Some database and websites will take awhile to crack and take over.”
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Original article from TakePart