Twitter suspends account which wrongly named Ferguson policeman

Twitter has suspended an account linked to the Anonymous movement after it wrongly accused a man of shooting Michael Brown, the 18-year-old whose killing sparked protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

The account, @TheAnonMessage, accused the man on Thursday afternoon UK time, and threatened to release more “dox” – personal identity documents – on him as a follow-up. But the St Louis County police department rapidly confirmed that he was not even an officer with them or Ferguson police department, and asked the Anonymous account to “not release more info on this random citizen”.

Twitter said: “We do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons,” but the account was likely to have been suspended for breaking the service’s rules on posting personally identifiable information. The rule states: “You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or social security/national identity numbers, without their express authorisation and permission.”

Shortly after, a second Anonymous account, @Crypt0nymous, accused the first of releasing information it knew to be incorrect – or at least, which it couldn’t confirm:

Gabriella Coleman, an academic who specialises in Anonymous and other “hacktivists”, suggested three reasons why the account may have been so reckless:

After Twitter stepped in to suspend @TheAnonMessage, the account holder switched to using their back-up account, @TheAnonMessage2, and claimed that their “plan” worked:

The failed “doxxing” is the second time incorrect information has been released by activists after Brown’s killing. In the initial reaction to the shooting, a picture of a woman making racist comments about the protests on Facebook was circulated, with popular Anonymous accounts falsely alleging that she was the “wife of the #Ferguson police chief”.

Powered by article was written by Alex Hern, for on Friday 15th August 2014 12.34 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010