A day after it released an alleged audio tape of St. Louis County Police dispatch calls, a Twitter account started by Anonymous ramped up its self-styled crusade in the case of slain teenager Mike Brown.
On Thursday morning, the @TheAnonMessage Twitter account released the name and photo of alleged police officer they claim shot and killed Mike Brown on Saturday. Its owners warned that unless they got a reaction from the St. Louis County Police Department, they would release additional information about the officer every two hours. True to their word, @TheAnonMessage leaked two photos of the alleged killer.
At 9:45 a.m., the St. Louis County Police Department did react by denying that the individual identified by @TheAnonMessage was an employee of the police department. Other members of Anonymous, which operates as a loose collective, distanced themselves from the @TheAnonMessage account. Fusion has withheld the officer's name from this report because it has not been confirmed.
Thousands of other Internet users also reacted to @TheAnonMessage. Following the release of the alleged shooter's identity, the name was mentioned on Twitter more than 18,000 times, according to social analytics tool Topsy. Many users demanded justice, and some called for violence. The named suspect was also targeted on Twitter and Facebook; those profiles were quickly deleted.
The @TheAnonMessage account was also suspended by Twitter before its user released additional information about alleged shooter, as earlier threatened.
There appears to be disagreement among hacktivists using the Anonymous banner. One Anonymous group, using the handle @OpFerguson, claims the name published by @TheAnonMessage does not match the name they were given by a different source. The second Anonymous group said they will not yet release the name they have.
The second Anonymous group took measures to distance themselves from @TheAnonMessage, claiming two were different groups working separately.
St. Louis County Police Department said Thursday it was a victim of a cyber attack that took its systems offline. Anonymous did not take credit for the attack, but this kind of attack is consistent with previous exploits.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.