How Anonymous got involved in fighting for justice for rape victims

Mother Jones's Josh Harkinson has an excellent piece on the history of KnightSec, an Anonymous offshoot that publicized the Steubenville and Halifax rape cases, galvanizing both the public and police responses to both. The piece includes an interview with Michelle McKee, who is credited with swaying a critical mass of Anons to participation in KnightSec. The whole story is pretty incredible, especially where it spills over into the real world:

The video went viral, and the next Occupy Steubenville rally drew 2,000 people to the courthouse steps. Because MC brought the sound system, he ended up serving as the de facto master of ceremonies (which is how he ended up with his Twitter handle). As he played excerpts of the Nodianos video over the loudspeakers, he told me, people in the crowd grew so angry that he started to worry that they would riot.

When the Steubenville sheriff showed up, MC invited him up and grilled him about the case. In the end, he diffused the tension by giving the cop a hug. "I'm going to take this negative energy and turn it into a positive thing," he remembers thinking. "You've got to let the crowd vent."

And vent they did. For four hours, there was a catharsis of personal pain and grief that nobody in the small town could have imagined. Women who had been raped stood in front of the crowd, clad in Guy Fawkes masks, to share their stories. Some of them unmasked at the end of their testimonies as they burst into tears. Rapes at parties, date rapes, rapes by friends and relatives—their pent-up secrets came pouring out. "It turned into this women's liberation movement, in a way," MC recalls. "And it just changed everything. There was nothing anybody could do against us at that point because it was so real and so true."

Exclusive: Meet the Woman Who Kicked off Anonymous' Anti-Rape Operations


  1. And somewhere some pundit is having a seizure trying to figure out how this affects his plan to sell some new snakeoil meant to stop the evil superhackers…

    1.  I’m glad of what these cats did, and think that the tools of hacking can facilitate good things in our world, including holding people responsible for their crimes and bad behavior.

      The problem, of course is when these same tools are used for nefarious and destructive ends–publishing people’s private information and opening them up to exploitation, for example. These things are often aimed at banks or credit card companies, but the people who get hurt are average people, who have little to no control over these financial instruments. Large corporations can just shrug it off and write off the losses (and most likely have people who count themselves as “hackers” on the pay roll to protect against such things), while the individual ends up screwed.

      So, it’s really all down to the morality of the individual who possesses these talents and tools, not the tools themselves. Some people like thinking of themselves as “evil superhackers”…. They think they are above the rest of us, because they have particular skills and as such can do as they please, no matter who it hurts. And there are those who possess these skills and want to affect positive change in the world. But I think you are right that they will all get painted with same brush. Time to rescue the term “hacker” for those with positive intent, maybe.

      1. And yet even when they do good, they are still “those” people from Anonymous.

        An example – The Sony Hacks.
        The system was insecure.  Sony knew the system was insecure.  This was public knowledge posted where Sony was aware of it.  There were reported cases of people’s information taken and used before the large scale hacks.  While everything that happened during this time was not exactly the best shiny moment, people like to overlook Sony was hacked worldwide something like 26 times.  That even as their systems fell time and time again they did NOTHING to protect their customers.  And Sony was able to shed any fault by saying Anonymous did it.  Notice there still is no law in place requiring corporations storing data on consumers to follow industry standards for protecting that data.
        So the other overlooked portions…
        Bad practices by corporations.
        Bad practices by consumers, “Zomg I have to change ALL of my passwords now because they got the data for 1 account.”
        People screaming how the hackers needed to die because Sony finally took the network offline and they were unable to play… yet not a single concern that Sony handed their CC info out to anyone using an old school ‘script kiddy’ level hack tool.

        Because of the hack Sony had to actually attempt some security in their systems, making the system better.

        How many times do you have to tell someone their house is on fire before you just have to break in and drag them the hell out?

        Who screwed them more? 
        Sony for not having to care or the Hackers for making Sony care?
        There is blame for both sides, but people like to sell the narrative of Anonymous are the super hackers no one can stop.

        1. No doubt there… it is far easier to point fingers at the evil hackers than to fix the real problems. But punishing the consumer for the evils of the corporate system does nothing to help people at the end of the day, even if we can understand that the consumer might be ignorant. I agree Sony screws far more people than Anonymous. But how does exposing consumer information help? Isn’t that the equivalent of blaming the Iranian regime for being a bad government, and then dropping on a nuclear bomb on Tehran in order to punish the regime – clearly, that only kills people jsut trying to get by…

          Addition, I think it only gives the corporate elite ammo in which they can claim common cause with the consumer against organizations like Anonymous… it’s a fiction – you and I know that (as does the powers that be at sony), but a less savy “consumer” (who tend to be poorer people, btw) with less access to good information about what the term “hacker” means – their entire definition has been defined for them by the culture industries – tend to be the ones hurt at the end in cases where  customer info is released, because of the way the corporate system is set up to spread failures around to the largest number (while the successes are kept mainly for a chosen few).

          I’d prefer to see more targeted hacks, that actually bring the bad guys out into the light more, rather than punish consumers who might not have as many choices. this is what was so admirable about the action around Steubenville – the people who did others harm were revealed for their crimes. The young women who was raped was not dragged further through the mud via this process (though she was consistently revictimized by others on social media).

          Edited to add: Just to be clear, I am not interested in equating Anonymous with corporations. I am interested in actions that actually help to reveal the system for what it is. I don’t feel that hack and dumps really help matters.

          1. I’m not going to say every dump is needed, but on the internet how many times have you heard someone claim they did something?
            How often do you believe them without proof?
            How many times have we been told, oh no they didn’t really hack us… and then there is a dump and suddenly that story changes.

            How many more people vote for American Idol than President?  Sometimes it takes a bit more to get peoples attention.

            Not saying everything they do is good and pure, but I have a feeling sometimes its easier to blame it all on Anonymous than other actors involved.

  2. It is interesting to see in a modern society the lengths people have to go to in order to get a sense of anonymity.  20 years ago women could come up in a crowd like this and be reasonably sure that nobody would know them, take their picture, put it on a global information network, etc… Now you have to work to maintain anonymity. 

    The whole Anonymous movement could be seen as a backlash against our increasingly information available age. 

    1. On the flip side : our information age means that actions like this are more possible, and can resonate more widely and more quickly. The spotlight is brighter and more mobile. I live thousands of miles away from this incident , but am aware of it.

      Over the last few days I have been clearing out old letters, old notes, old flyers (1980s/ 90s). Almost every single note said something like ” I tried to contact you several times, but you weren’t around. Hope we can meet up” . This was the pre-Internet age. Missed connections galore. Information was patchy, slow, and prone to fail.

      Never bemoan the connectivity and collectivity we now have, simply because some of the light requires you to wear shades.

    2. I see what you are saying, but its not the Big Outside World that these women have to contend with, but their friends and neighbors, their bosses and the local men.

      I mean think about it– if women thought it was safe to talk about being raped before a crowd of their neighbors before the internet, they would have done so decades ago.

  3. I can think of worse ways for Anon to spend their time than outing and shaming rapists.

  4. There’s a guy accused of rape hiding in a London embassy. Perhaps they could help bring him to justice.

    1. Yeah.  I mean, 97% of rapists never see any jail time but if Assange isn’t in the remaining 3% then that’s a terrible travesty of justice and means everyone who speaks out against rape is a giant hypocrite.  You make a lot of sense.

  5. When the police fail to do their job, and the citizens step in, that is a good thing. Anonymous, for all their craziness and haphazardry, generally does good. If there is anything about this world to say that it is full of more people wanting to help than cause harm, it would be Anonymous. When a group of strangers bands together with no ties or connections with each other or those they are helping, then the world has been blessed. I’m not part of the anonymous movement, but I get a big grin and a floating feeling in my heart every time I hear about the good they do.

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