Local KKK leader Frank Ancona's recent spate of media appearances has attracted the lulz-seeking hooligans of hacker collective Anonymous -- a loosely affiliated network of self-identifying activists with a very particular set of skills.
Ancona, the imperial wizard of the Missouri-based Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, found himself a target of those skills on Sunday, when hackers posted his personal information, including a home address, and shut down the TAK website. The measures followed a larger weekend campaign to digitally harass the KKK into submission, called #OpKKK.
Last week, Daily RFT reported that Ancona's group was distributing a flier addressed to "the terrorists masquerading as 'peaceful protesters'" and which ominously referenced Missouri's lethal-force statute. Many perceived the flier as a threat toward Ferguson protesters, and Ancona later appeared on MSNBC to defend himself and the KKK to anchor Chris Hayes.
On Friday, using the hashtags #HoodsOff and #OppKKK, Anonymous began posting names and personal information of alleged KKK members to Twitter, and a YouTube video from Anonymous Australia declared a "cyber war" against the white-supremacist group.
"We are not attacking you because of what you believe in, as we fight for freedom of speech. We are attacking you because of your threats to use lethal attacks against us at the Ferguson protest," says the video's narrator. "Anything you upload will be taken down. Anything you use to promote the KKK will be shut down."
YouTube later removed the video, citing a violation of its policies against content "designed to harass, bully or threaten." Others have since reposted the video.
Ancona was a targeted in Anonymous' first wave of attacks. In a bizarre chat transcript posted by independent journalist Nate Thayer on Saturday, Ancona wrote that he was busy "kicking Anonymous' ass." He also confirmed that his website had been targeted by hackers, and claimed to have spent $220 fighting Anonymous' attempts to break the site.
By Sunday afternoon, the TAK website had been shut down.
While Anonymous posted a stream of names, addresses and phone numbers to various Twitter accounts, Ancona traded insults with Anonymous, calling them "insignificant nothings" and "dumbass anonymous douchebags."
Ancona's bluster may come back to taunt him. Other KKK Twitter accounts also lashed out at Anonymous during the week, but by late Sunday hackers managed to snatch two KKK accounts, starting with @KuKluxKlanUSA. Anonymous announced the victory with a photo of a lynched Klansman, seen here following an overconfident tweet from the KKK:
Later Sunday afternoon another KKK Twitter account, @YourKKKCentral, demanded Anonymous return @KuKluxKlanUSA and called the hackers' actions "illegal" and threatened to notify the FBI. An hour later, Anonymous raised its own flag over @YourKKKCentral and posted a music video for the Unseen's "Fuck the KKK."
Another Anonymous account posted a gif in celebration.
Though Anonymous is clearly pleased with its efforts this weekend, it's hard to say how much they affected the KKK as a movement. Reports from Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation league describe a national KKK movement that's splintered and in decline, with, at most, 4,000 to 6,000 active Klansmen across the country.
Posting from the @KuKluxKlanUSA account, Anonymous stated it would release a statement about its anti-Klan actions this weekend.
UPDATE: Anonymous will release a statement on THIS account tomorrow at 03:00 GMT (21 hours from now) regarding the seizing of this account.— Ku Klux Klan (@KuKluxKlanUSA) November 17, 2014
We'll update this post as we know more.
Update: In a statement posted Monday night from its hijacked KKK Twitter account, Anonymous addressed criticism that #OpKKK is anti-free speech and that its hacktivist operatives went too far in silencing alleged KKK members and websites.
The Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist group. The blood of thousands on human beings are on the hands of Klansmen. In most of Anonymous' member's eyes, the KKK no longer has the right to express their racist, bigoted opinions.
Anonymous also revealed that it may be holding back the identities of users gleaned from the Klan's Twitter accounts.
The members of Anonymous who seized this account continue to debate if the identities of the people associated with the Klan's Twitter should be released to the public. This debate has risen as we are not completely sure how much of a connection many of the people actually have to the KKK. We want to ensure we are outing the right people. It would be against everything Anonymous does if we publicly released information of the innocent.
Here's the full release: