Late last month, members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous announced that they would release a list of the real identities of a thousand Ku Klux Klan members on November 5. This week those members shared that list with me, and after analyzing the data and consulting with more than a dozen Klansman about its veracity, it appears that much of the list is accurate, though there are still errors, including names of people who are not affiliated with any Klan group.
The Anonymous members, who did not wish to share their real names, compiled their list after months of work infiltrating Klan social media sites posing as white nationalist sympathizers. They then spent several days culling and updating the list to eliminate as many inaccuracies as possible. Anonymous responded to requests because of my previous investigative reporting on the Klan.
Most of the more than 500 names released on Thursday afternoon are online aliases rather than real identities, and there are no phone numbers, addresses, or other personal information, according to the Anonymous members who compiled the information.
No prominent names, such as those of elected officials, are included in the list. An unrelated and discredited list falsely outed several politicians earlier this week, but though that data dump was credited to Anonymous, the group behind the list released today insists they had nothing to do with it, and that they have been guarding their information closely.
"Five people, including you and me, have seen our list. I am the only one in physical possession of this list besides you. Those working with me do not have a copy themselves," a person who asked to be identified as "West" said Wednesday.
West said that the list was compiled through "different methodologies for data collection, espionage, I guess you could call it. We did pose as racist assholes and tried to infiltrate social media accounts of KKK members and other white supremacist extremists."
Ku Klux Klan members contacted this week confirmed many names as accurate, but say that most are aliases and contend the release will not harm their organizations.
"It is definitely not going to cause people to have a mass exodus," said Frank Ancona, the Imperial Wizard—or national leader—of the Traditionalist Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who is named in the Anonymous leak, as are a number of his Klan faction's members. "I have not had one single member contact me concerned about it. It will bring some positive publicity in terms of membership."
Ancona said he has had thousands of new Twitter followers in recent days. He also said that there have been two concerted hacking attacks on his group's website in the last 24 hours.
"The KKK is part of an important cultural landscape and history in the United States," the members of Anonymous said in a statement accompanying the list. "The reality is that racism usually does NOT wear a hood but it does permeate our culture on every level. Part of the reason we have taken the hoods off of these individuals is not because of their identities, but because of what their hoods symbolize to us in our broader society."
The list is being released today to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, which has in recent years been adopted by Anonymous as a day of anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian protests, including the "Million Mask March" in London and elsewhere.
Photo via Flickr user Vincent Diamante