Anonymous' Battle Against the Westboro Baptist Church

By Patrick McGuire | Dec 19 2012

Fred Phelps, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Update 2: The Twitter account for Fred Phelps Jr. was hacked by "Cosmo the God," who Wired confirmed was also the hacker responsible for defacing the Twitter account belonging to Shirley Phelps, Westboro Church spokesperson, on Monday. Cosmo replaced Fred Jr.'s Twitter background with the image posted below, but the account has now been suspended.

UPDATE: Twitter has reactivated the @YourAnonNews account. We'll let you know what happens next.

Over the past few days, Anonymous has been beating their virtual war-drums in the general direction of the Westboro Baptist Church. You probably already know exactly who the Westboro Baptist Church is, but if not, we made a documentary on it that you can watch here. They’re that group of extremist Christians who are famous for vile hate speech slogans like “God Hates Fags” that have earned them the ire of pretty much every rational human being on the planet.

After the unspeakably depressing mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Friday, Westboro drove its flag of awfulness even deeper into the cortex of basic civility, by announcing that they would be protesting the vigils for the victims of the Connecticut shootings in order “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment." Executing his judgment against innocent children at the hands of an assault rifle wielding insane person? Holy shit, right? Well, certain members of Anonymous felt like that too, so they proceeded to launch a virtual offensive against the church, which led to the public service announcement embedded below and the release of personal information on Westboro Church leaders. As the robotic Anonymous voice says in the video: "We have seen your depraved methods of disseminating your message of hate throughout the United States of America... your hatred supersedes your faith... Since your one-dimensional thought protocol will conform not to any modern logic, we will not debate, argue, or attempt to reason with you."

It’s hard to feel any sympathy for the Westboro Church for having to deal with a swarm of Anonymous hacker-bees. According to Forbes, Anonymous claimed to have changed the desktop background of a Westboro representative named Shirley Phelps-Roper to gay porn, and filed a death certificate in her name to screw her out of social security benefits. Not a bad one-two punch! In the process of this gay porn and fake death blitzkrieg, Anonymous released the personal information (which they call "doxing") of a few Westboro Church members and pushed these dox out to one of their Twitter accounts, @YourAnonNews, which had about 800,000 followers and was suspended around noon today.

These documents included the personal information of Fred Phelps, the head of Westboro Baptist Church, and his granddaughter, Libby Phelps, among others. The major problem here is that Libby has completely distanced herself from the Westboro Baptists and even runs a Facebook page, which she uses to speak out against them. After Barrett Brown, an outspoken public face for Anonymous, was recently indicted in Texas for sharing a link that contained stolen credit card information in a chat room, it’s not surprising to see the shutdown of @YourAnonNews over a reformed extremist Christian having her personal information shot out to the world for all to see.

So it seems that when Anonymous picks a fight with extremist Christians the results are quick and very noticeable. While Anonymous does run other PR and News Twitter accounts, losing a voicebox to 800,000 followers is a very serious blow to a grassroots hacktivist movement. What is absolutely clear is that if Anonymous is going to file fake death certificates over the threat of protests surrounding the Connecticut shootings, and if the brand-defining protests that Anonymous launched against Scientology are any indication, the response to this account suspension will be heavy unless the account is somehow returned by Twitter in the very near future. Based on everything that's happened so far, I would have to say that this feud is only beginning.

More on Anonymous:

Anonymous Are Trying to Destroy the "Most Hated Man" on the Internet

An Update from Some Hackers and a Documentarian Inside the Gaza Strip

Tracing Kody Maxson, the Online Blackmailer Alleged to Have Tormented Amanda Todd

More on the Westboro Baptist Church:

Cult Kids: Westboro

Follow Patrick on Twitter: @patrickmcguire

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