TorrentFreak, Demonoid's Site Moderator, and Anonymous All Have Something to Say
Last week Demonoid, the internet's BitTorrent superpower, was shut down. TorrentFreak, citing the Ukranian newspaper Kommersant and a statement from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), reported that the site's management was located in Mexico, where "multiple arrests" were made. At the time of publication, no major news sources have reported any additional details regarding the supposed capture of Mexican Demonoid admins.
On Wednesday I wrote an article for VICE graciously titled Torrentfreak is Full of Shit, According to a Demonoid Admin, that quoted a Demonoid site moderator I am in contact with. Unsurprisingly, TorrentFreak got a bit upset. Ernesto, the site's editor, tweeted at myself and @VICE that we had been "trolled." He said that I "didn't talk to a verified admin with a Demonoid address," because their email addresses are no longer working. While that is true, I was introduced to my source, C. S., quite some time ago after getting in touch with the staff through the "contact us" page. According to Ernesto's own logic, his contact didn't have an @demonoid address either. He later admitted that to me in an email, saying, "the Demonoid email addresses don't work any more as the servers are down."
Ernesto also questioned C. S.'s rank in the Demonoid hierarchy, so I entered the official IRC chat room of the Demonoid organization to talk with other ops about my source's powers and privileges. I was assured by a site operator that C. S. was a moderator.
Funny enough, when entering the chat room every visitor is greeted with a text banner that links to the above image of "Ernesto" from TorrentFreak being eaten by a T-Rex and bragging about how little he knows. C. S. later told me "that image pretty much sums up what we think of TorrentFreak. They're a bit of a running joke for us, with their inaccuracy."
To support his claims, Ernesto told me it was a "well known fact" that one of the founders of Demonoid, who goes by Deimos, was Mexican. He also implied, citing an alleged Demonoid investigation in Mexico in October of 2011, that Deimos had been targeted by authorities. C. S., on the contrary, told me that Deimos is European, and had personally denied being the source of any investigation or arrest on the staff section of the Demonoid message board when the site was still online. When I presented that information to Ernesto, he told me that Deimos is "Eastern European indeed," completely contradicting what he had told me less than three hours earlier.
Still, Ernesto relentlessly insists that he has a source at Demonoid who is higher up than C. S., opposes C. S.'s information in every single way, and somehow doesn't agree with or is unaware of the public and official Demonoid communication of Ernesto being eaten by a Photoshopped T-Rex. According to C. S., "all staff communicated with each other closely so we would present a united front for the users. If someone was taking a vacation, they would let the rest know… If Ernesto's been talking to a staff member, then they've kept it a secret from the rest of us."
In an email, Ernesto told me that "[C. S.] is not part of the people who run Demonoid (as in revenue, server access, development), but likely a site torrent or IRC mod. These are just users with a few extra privileges."
To this, C. S. let me know "Every single one of the site staff, except for (Demios and Umulaf) were users that got promoted to staff. (Via invitation, after peer review and discussion of possible candidates.) Except for the boss, we all hold the same rank." Umulaf is apparently the current owner of Demonoid. C. S. told me that Umulaf is "free, in Europe. And last I checked, Mexico wasn't part of the EU." Last night's reports that the Demonoid domain name itself is now for sale would indicate that the site's owner is free and still in charge of the domain.
It is highly perplexing, that in light of the blitzkrieg arrest of Kim Dotcom, no name or information has been released about this purported capture of Demonoid's management. Some major news outlets, namely the CBC and BBC have reported on this arrest as well, but they cite Torrentfreak as their source and present no further information about a Mexican connection.
As if dealing with Ernesto from Torrentfreak wasn't enough, I received an email from AnonDude, Anonymous' "PR spokesman, " who told me that "Anonymous read your blog post on VICE about Demonoid with interest and enthusiasm today." They were stoked because they "are also suspect of information out of TorrentFreak.com, so we appreciate you pointing out to users that Demonoid has not officially said *anything* yet. We are also under the assumption the leadership is in the Philippines." Anonymous is suspect of Torrentfreak's information "simply because the information coming out all originates from the same people who initiated the actions in the first place."
Their message, which arrived in my inbox via a privatized and secured Hushmail.com address also included this video manifesto made to promote their new mission, OpDemonoid. The video has already been removed from YouTube once.
The V for Vendetta/Star Wars video mashup declares a threat to all Ukranian government websites. Indeed, it does seem that Anonymous has been taking down and defacing Ukranian websites, as you can see in the screenshot above. They list six current targets which are a mix of Ukranian government sites, the Dutch anti-piracy organization Brein, the Russian anti-piracy site PiratePay, and the IFPI's website. AnonDude told me that "Attacks on Ukranian government websites are ongoing. Done for lulz. They will continue and escalate until Demonoid returns."
When I let C. S. know that Anonymous was in touch with me, he responded democratically: "to my knowledge, Anonymous is not involved with anyone from Demonoid, and we have not associated with them." It seems that even the BitTorrent admins of the world are weary to make friends with the Anons.
While it seems clear that there was a server seizure in the Ukraine, there is no good evidence indicating an arrest in Mexico. C. S. put it well when he said, "If they had arrested someone from Demonoid they would have given the name, like every other time. The BBC is probably just copying Torrentfreak's erroneous info." I have to agree. It seems unlikely, considering the recent high-profile arrest of Kim Dotcom, that a similar arrest would receive zero media attention.
If that all changes, and photos of a hacker-type being carted off in chains wearing a Demonoid t-shirt emerge, then TorrentFreak will get to say I told you so. But until then, this seems to be a very precise blast of misinformation, seemingly designed to damage the reputation of Demonoid's pirate legacy.