For all the excitement generated by Anonymous’ threat to release the names of KKK members, the actual list has proven quite a disappointment. Not only does it not expose anyone shocking — like a politician or celebrity — the list is riddled with errors and unmasks people who never lied about being in the KKK in the first place.
One member told the Washington Post that what Anonymous set out to do — ripping the hoods off KKK members by mining Internet data — was impossible to start with because the KKK doesn’t keep extensive records of its followers online.
“This is low-hanging fruit, basically public source information,” Mark Pitcavage, director of the U.S. Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told Vice News. “For most of these people it’s not a secret that they’ve been in the Klan.”
Anonymous finally made good on its much-hyped threat Thursday, releasing the list through Twitter. Anonymous said the list included people who were “quite dangerous, sociopathic individuals. Others are not,” and it was purported to include members of various KKK groups and their “closest associates,” BBC News reported.
They called the list a “form of resistance” against race-based violence.
The list was compiled through “social engineering” and “human intelligence,” by speaking with experts, parsing public records, and chatting online with some KKK members online using secret clan greetings. Anonymous said the compilation was legit because the names came “straight from the KKK.”
“It’s important to know whom you’re working with. Do you want a member of the KKK working in a school? Or as a police officer?”
However, this list includes nothing earth-shattering and is mostly comprised of social media profiles, which some experts said don’t even include real names.
The KKK inventory includes the profiles of people who’d joined or “liked” KKK groups on Facebook or Google+. Many of these profiles vanished ahead of the Anonymous release, and others disappeared afterward. Others just included visual or written links to the KKK, neo-Nazis, or white supremacy groups.
Many of the unmasked KKK members maintain public profiles that don’t hide their ties with the hate group. Other names are obviously aliases, not KKK members at all, or garden-variety white supremacists, while other alleged KKK members were outright misidentified. The most blatant mistake is the inclusion of a libertarian — and not racist — cartoonist whose name likely appeared because his cartoons were incorporated into widely-circulated racist memes.
Author and KKK expert David Cunningham, who wrote a book on the hate group, was also unimpressed with the anonymous leak — and doesn’t really consider the KKK enough of a threat to be targeted by Anonymous.
“I’m having trouble seeing the unmasking of people who have a public profile who wouldn’t have been already tied to this world. I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around the Anonymous promise because, while I agree the Klan can be dangerous, I don’t see that they’re infiltrating society. A good chunk of those people are willing to publicly admit their roles.”
And Anonymous’ efforts may have been for naught anyway. An “Imperial Wizard” with the KKK, Frank Ancona, said he is one of very few members who will actually use their real name in profiles. More to the point, the KKK “doesn’t have a computerized database [of members] that they could hack into.”
The only way Anonymous could’ve gotten a list of real names is by talking to real KKK members, he said.
However, Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman noted that even though the unmasking was a mixed bag with unverifiable information, the discussion about race that has accompanied the leak has been beneficial. And she lauded Anonymous for a clearly well-intentioned leak, which demonstrated to her that the organization is comprised of “thoughtful” people interested in racial justice.
[Photo By Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images]