Huh?

12.18.12

Who’s Really Behind the Mysterious Adam Lanza Parody Twitter Account?

The hacker group Anonymous said it unmasked the author of an offensive Twitter parody account of school shooter Adam Lanza. But did they get it wrong? “Ms. F.” says yes, writes Eli Lake.

They are Anonymous. They are Legion. They do not forgive. They do not forget. They also apparently do not fact check. At least this is the experience of a woman we are going to call Ms. F., who says she is 71 years old and lives with her dog in Saint Charles, Mo.

Since Monday night, Ms. F. says, she has received nearly 600 angry phone calls from people blaming her for creating a parody Twitter account of Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza. That account, under the handle @BlastinKids, appeared to celebrate the senseless killings in Newtown with profane references to murder and cannibalism. It was taken down by Twitter on Monday after a surge of protests from other users of the social media site. Twitter didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

The calls to Ms. F. began after the collective group of hackers known as Anonymous claimed to have identified the author of the parody Lanza account: a 32-year-old financial asset manager named Jacob. In an Internet posting, Anonymous also included an address, phone number, employer, and Facebook page for this person. Anonymous also embedded a script tag, or a line of code, into the comment section of a Daily Beast article on Monday in an apparent attempt to disseminate the person’s information. The Daily Beast is withholding the last name because it has not been able to verify his identity, or the identity of the person who answered his alleged phone number.

That person, Ms. F., says she is a divorced minister and quilting enthusiast who moved to Saint Charles to be closer to her family. She says she doesn’t know the alleged Twitter, nor does she use Twitter. “I am 71 years old I don’t do social networking,” she told the Daily Beast Tuesday. She said she has tried to contact Twitter about the mix up, but thus far the number she has been calling has been a fax line.

“I am a 71-year-old woman living with my dog. All of you who are calling have been fooled into thinking I am Jacob.”

Ms. F. has also called the local police, who are now investigating the case for cyber-harassment. Lt. Craig McGuire of the Saint Charles County Sheriff's Department confirmed that she lives at that address and said the department's cyber-crimes unit is handling the case. "There were hackers who identified what they thought was a good phone number and a good address for this guy on Twitter," he said. "But the phone number is no good and he doesn’t live at that address anymore. Now all these knuckleheads get on there and want to call and have their voices heard and threaten these people," he added. "But we want to tell them you can’t believe everything you see on the Internet.” The head of the cyber-crimes unit, Chris Mateja, said the unit is going through the answering-machine messages to determine whether they constitute harassment.

The ordeal has forced Ms. F to change her outgoing message, she says. It now says, “If you are trying to reach Jacob you have the wrong number. I am a 71-year-old woman living with my dog. All of you who are calling have been fooled into thinking I am Jacob.”

In the interview she said she just wanted all the hateful answering-machine messages to stop. She said she is thinking of adding a new line to her answering-machine message: “When you are leaving threatening, hateful messages that many of you have left, you are perpetrating the same kind of hateful thinking that caused this horrendous event in Connecticut to have happened in the first place.”