The hacker group Anonymous on Thursday released its much anticipated trove of purported information about the Ku Klux Klan's membership.
The large data dump includes nearly two-dozen social media pages allegedly affiliated with the KKK and information on nearly 400 people, including names, email addresses, Facebook pages and known aliases.
No politicians or government officials were apparent in an initial review of the data, although several of the names were identified as retired law enforcement officers. Some of the names on the list have already been identified through previously published reports.
The information on the list has not been verified by the KKK or any other independent authority.
“We defend free thought and free speech,” said OpKKK. “The anons responsible for this operation will not support *acts* of terrorism and *acts* of hate inflicted upon the public.”
While the leak falls short of the promise to “unmask” 1,000 KKK members, the release is fairly robust, especially given the delayed release, which led some to wonder if any information was coming at all.
“We removed several names from our list for further investigation. We would rather have a smaller, accurate list that we are comfortable with,” OpKKK tweeted shortly after releasing the list.
Anonymous initially declared a cyber war against the KKK amid the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after a local Klan chapter threatened to use “lethal force” to defend itself from the “terrorists masquerading as ‘peaceful protesters.’ ”
Hackers went after Klan-affiliated Twitter accounts and websites, taking them over and forcing them offline.
But the digital spat was dormant for months until last week, when Anonymous said it was preparing to expose information on the Klan members they had found by infiltrating the Klan’s online presence.
Earlier this week, the OpKKK team said it would time the release to the Nov. 5 Million Mask March in London, a massive pro-civil liberties, pro-Anonymous and anti-government demonstration.
That protest has also taken off, with reports of protesters clashing with police and setting at least one squad car on fire.
In the days leading up to Thursday’s release, Anonymous fought off ties to a widely discredited early leak from a rogue hacker that identified several prominent U.S. senators and mayors as supposed KKK members.
While numerous Anonymous-affiliated Twitter accounts promoted the initial leak, OpKKK went to great lengths to emphasize that the hacker was not part of Anonymous, which the hacker confirmed on Twitter.
But the inaccurate leak put considerable pressure on Anonymous to get it right on Thursday.
“If they keep messing up, then people are not going to turn to them,” said Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who wrote a book about Anonymous.
In the release, OpKKK laid out its thorough investigation that led to the list.
The team said it spent 11 months collecting the information through a variety of channels. In addition to digital espionage, OpKKK said it reviewed a broad swath of academic records and publicly available data.
The investigators apparently even talked to the alleged Klansmen themselves.
“Members often told on themselves to us about their connections with the KKK during various chat conversations we had with Klan members and affiliates throughout the course of our operation,” OpKKK said. “You never know who you are talking to on the Internet.”
— Katie Bo Williams contributed.