As a socially progressive group, Anonymous defends the freedom of thought and speech. However, they do not condone acts of terrorism or inflictions of hateful behavior on the public, and they make the case that the KKK, at least in part, exhibits terroristic tendencies. Rather than being one cohesive organization, the modern-day Klan is composed of splintered cells predominantly scattered across the Midwest and South.
In their outing of Klan members’ personal information, Anonymous included a foreword which explained that they targeted Klan leaders and significantly active members rather than any and all Klan members. This is because those individuals were actively involved in perpetuating an environment of hate towards minorities, either through online activity or real-life actions.
For instance, one KKK group leader, Frazier Glenn Miller, killed three Jewish people at a retirement home during Passover in Kansas City last April. This example alone indicates that there is a potential for future violence, likely from prominent Klansmen. Although they have the right to free thought, we should not tolerate it when those thoughts cross over into taking harmful actions against others.
Anonymous makes it clear, though, that they are not seeking to reveal specific individuals’ identities for the sole purpose of outing them as direct threats to society. Rather, the removing of their “hoods” (online aliases in this case) is more of a symbolic revealing of racism’s existence and the threat that it poses to a progressive society.
A portion of the published list’s accompanying statement reads: “We need to make room for important, blunt, honest, public, productive conversation. Violent bigotry IS a problem in the United States. This is not a colorblind society. It is deeply divided on racial lines. We hope Operation KKK will, in part, spark a bit of constructive dialogue about race, racism, racial terror and freedom of expression, across group lines.”
The data presented in the final document was scoured carefully for accuracy after collection over the course of eleven months. Both human and open-source intelligence tactics were utilized in discovering members of the KKK via their online presences, with public data being used to confirm identities of investigated persons.
Although Anonymous sometimes used fake identities in order to generate a rapport with suspected Klan members, this practice was in line with those individuals’ own use of aliases.
Also, this method of information gathering is comparable to investigators who “reverse catfish” suspected sexual predators online by posing as vulnerable girls.
When it comes down to it, making these details public was the right action to take. While the KKK’s “right to privacy” (which isn’t expressly protected in full by the Constitution—but that’s a story for another time) may be violated, it is likely being done at no risk of actual harm to them. At the same time, they have historically been promoting harm against others and still incite fear and terror in the general public.
By shining light on active KKK members, Anonymous is doing a public good. Establishing an online presence for oneself, even a “private” one, has to be done in light of the fact that essentially anything and anywhere on the internet has the capability to be made public at some point, especially if the contents of one’s online activities pose potential threats to others.