Hacktivists fuel little but lynch mob mentality

Much local attention has been paid to protest rallies being staged in Steubenville by the hacktivist group Anonymous.

If you weren’t previously familiar with this group, it’s no wonder. It is a loosely associated group of anonymous anarchists, who operate primarily through the Internet.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a hacktivist is a person who gains unauthorized access to computer files or networks in order to further social or political ends. The group Anonymous is also generally considered to be a blanket term for members of certain Internet subcultures or a way to refer to the actions of people in an environment where their actual identities are concealed.

Now, the group has allegedly turned its focus to Columbiana County, where according to a video posted on YouTube, Anonymous is warning our public officials that it is aware of their wrong and corrupt ways.

The group said it will not yet mention names of the officeholders or their wrongful deeds, to give them the opportunity to change their ways. But … if they don’t repent and reform, Anonymous will release incriminating files and stage a peaceful protest here.

The first video from Anonymous warning our county was posted on YouTube Jan. 2, 2012, and talked about a specific issue that was well-covered by the Morning Journal, but it took more than a year to get anyone’s attention. That one called for a rally on the courthouse steps last February which either never materialized, or garnered so little attention that neither the media nor anyone else noticed it.

The latest video was posted more recently through LiveLeak, a video sharing website that lets users post and share videos.

It’s hard to take seriously anyone who acts anonymously. Anonymity can embolden the world’s weakest coward. Unfortunately, the Internet, which for the most part is a valuable tool, is also easily able to be abused by the chicken-hearted to anonymously bully anyone. And, unlike the mainstream media, Internet posters aren’t accountable to anyone.

One of our colleagues describes the Internet as “the crossroads where the ignorant and uninformed meet to share their ignorant and uninformed opinions,” and sadly, our colleague is sometimes right.

While we prefer to ignore the “Anonymous Columbiana County” video and chalk it up to the ramblings of a citizen with a gripe or a disgruntled former employee of county government, the Internet lynch mob rallying in Steubenville is beginning to cause problems here.

Sheriff Ray Stone announced Friday that Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation agents that had been assigned to our county have been reassigned to the investigation of the Anonymous group’s Internet hacking involving the Steubenville rape case.

These BCI agents were in our county to help investigate the still unsolved December murder of Melinda Todd near Salem and financial irregularities involving the county Drug Task Force.

The second Anonymous video calls the so-called corrupt actions of our unnamed officials “unforgivable.”

What we think is unforgivable is the fact the actions of a group of cyber bullies is taking agents away from investigating serious crimes in our county- murder and possible corruption.