Inside Anonymous’ Operation to Out Rehtaeh Parsons’ Alleged Rapists
The late Rehtaeh Parsons. via Facebook.
In the days following the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons—the teenage girl from Halifax who committed suicide after being gang raped, photographed, and harassed—the hacktivist group Anonymous is playing a game of chicken with the authorities in Nova Scotia. Anonymous says they have the names of four suspects, and are threatening to release that information if justice is not delivered. Those names have in fact been circulating in small online circles, but the information has been withheld from publication on Anonymous’s largest social media channels. All of this has caused a storm of negative feedback from those who view Anonymous’s actions as destructive “vigilantism” while Anonymous maintains they are only involved because “several crimes have been committed in Nova Scotia. A 17-year-old girl killed herself because the police failed to do their jobs.”
I spoke with a member of Anonymous who is directly involved with the operation to bring Rehtaeh’s rapists to justice, in order to get a better handle on their motivations.
VICE: How do you go about sourcing the information that has led to naming the four suspects?
Anonymous: The information we have gathered comes from a combination of internet research and informants. It’s a lot more like being a journalist than it is being a detective. We use advanced search techniques to comb the internet for statements, photos, videos, whatever we need. We can locate statements by suspects made years ago on accounts they may not even know still exist. We’ve also developed a level of trust with our online community and they feel comfortable speaking with us because they know we’ll protect their identities. We validate their information in the same way the police might, by cross referencing stories and doing background checks on the individuals who are providing the information. There’s also a psychological factor. It’s important to recognize the motives behind the person who is providing you the information. Some people just want to be involved so they’ll embellish their accounts or perhaps they want revenge. You can’t always count on a person’s memory either so it’s important to test them to discover if the story they are telling you has been compromised by time or their emotional state.
In this case, did your sources approach you?
Most of the sources approached us, but we tracked down quite a few of them by examining the online interactions of the victim and the suspects.
What have you learned about this case so far that you want people to know?
Only half of this case is about those four teenage boys and the alleged rape. The real guilty parties here are the adults that violated Rehtaeh. I would like to see those boys punished for what they did because I think it sets a terrible example for the other young men in Nova Scotia, but almost even more I would like to see the police and the school system pay for what they did to that girl. They had a responsibility to be there for her, to protect her, and to relieve her torment. They failed at every turn to help her. Now they’re all too busy blaming one another. The school claims they didn’t know. The police say they couldn’t find any evidence. They’re both guilty of incompetence.
I Was a Suspected School Shooter
By now, the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting has faded into memory for many people, a horrible event already superseded in the headlines by other horrible events. At the time it shocked me to a degree I thought I could no longer be shocked, a reaction no doubt shared by everyone who heard the news. But it also stirred up some more complicated emotions for me along with the sadness—it reminded me that when I was a teenager, the people around me thought that I was capable of what the Newtown killer did. At one point, I was more of a potential murderer than a potential murder victim.
I grew up in a Barre, Vermont, a town with a poverty level on par with an urban slum, a rural pocket of ugliness decorated with a halfway houses and abandoned storefronts. The town bred drug addicts, premature deaths, and weirdos, but I was still too weird for it. As a kid, I possessed an eccentric streak and was prone to long periods of silence punctuated by bursts of hyperactivity. On top of that, I possessed a dark sense of humor, and I was naturally attracted to outlandish outfits. I tried to tame these tendencies and stay under the social radar in middle school and early high school, but it didn’t help. It was like my classmates could smell that I wasn’t quite right. I was bullied mercilessly for years, even by my “best friends,” in the manner of the worst stereotypes of tween girls. My friends would send mixed messages, being affectionate one moment only to commit spontaneous acts of physical and borderline sexual violence and emotional terror the next. What I wore, what I ate, and who I talked to were all controlled. Imagine Mean Girls only the girls weren’t as popular or attractive and were much more vicious. We were probably only friends by default—we were bullied together by the more popular kids, thus we stuck it out together, but we never mistook our forced alliance for love.
The summer of 1997, before my sophomore year of high school, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to fit into my current environment regardless of what I did, and I was sick of the unhealthy relationship that I was stuck in with my “friends.” I was still shy and withdrawn, so my rebellion was expressed through my clothing instead of my words—excessive amounts of eye makeup, dog collars, offensive tee shirts, the whole avant-garde nine yards. This acting out wasn’t directed against my parents (they didn’t care how I dressed) but towards my friends and the rest of the school. I figured letting my weirdness show regardless of the potential backlash was better than continuing to try desperately to fit in only to be mildly tolerated at best.
There was no goth subculture at my school back then, so I stood out like a black thumb; I was the most bizarre-looking kid in town. My style was met with equal parts disgust and fascination by my classmates, and the bullying predictably escalated—I was verbally and physically assaulted on a regular basis, receiving death threats at least once a month. Teachers not only didn’t bother to defend me, they would often chime in with comments about my appearance, maybe in an effort to impress the more popular kids, who were usually the offspring of the grown townspeople with high standing in the community.
The other form my rebellion took was a book of charts and rhymes and short stories I had been working on for a while—by the time I was 15, it was 23 pages long and full of frustration and silliness. I shared it with my friends and it became the source of a bunch of inside jokes. Oh, and I killed some people in it too, people I knew who I thought were malicious—I referred to them by surreal fake names and described their deaths in cartoonish detail; most of them were murdered by a disco ball at the Elks Club. Here’s how I described it:
“Nuffiunda calmly took a knife out of her pocket and cut the rope. For the kids below, there was no more hope. The disco ball swung uneasily and in a matter of seconds, maybe just four, it was no longer above the dance floor. A loud crash vibrated the room, as several kids below had met their doom.”
As time went on, I started to prefer escaping into the private world of writing to trying and failing to impress my frenemies, and that attitude resulted in them banishing me and another girl from the group. We became loners in the truest sense: Only two people signed my senior yearbook and she was one of them. We were really the bottom of the high-school social totem pole, and the girls we used to call our friends were now our biggest perpetrators, starting untrue rumors that we spent our free time having sex with each other and that I fucked a bunch of guys—the usual teenage stuff.
The author posing for a photo that probably made sense at the time.
Then on May 1, just 11 days after the Columbine shooting, my life took a drastically dumb turn.
It began normally enough: My fellow loner and I were waiting for a ride, sitting on the steps of the school. Parked in front of us was the car of the main rumormonger and our chief tormentor. My friend told me to stand guard while she wrote a mean note and put it on her windshield—the note threw around the words “fat” and “whore” and she signed it with the name of one of the characters from my Elks Club story.
“She’ll know who wrote it if you sign it with that name,” I said. “You can’t write that.”
She agreed and rewrote it, signing off, “Love, The Trenchcoat Mafia.”
I shrugged. “Well, at least she won’t know who wrote it,” I remember saying. I didn’t even think we’d get in trouble. Then our ride arrived and I heard reports about a wave of Columbine copycat threats around the nation on the car radio. I think I let out an audible “fuck”—we hadn’t even been sneaky about the note. There were about ten kids who had watched my friend put it on the windshield.
Predictably, the police got called, and school officials wanted to talk to me. But they weren’t interested in the note, which I admitted being an accomplice to; they just wanted to see my “death plan.” Apparently my old friends had responded to the note by telling the vice principal that my surreal, jokey Elks Club story was a prom murder spree manual and that I was going to kill a bunch of kids at the upcoming Junior Prom, which was talking place, by sheer coincidence, at the Elks Club. (Not that that was a surprise; everything in that fucking town took place there.) The school had also been informed that I was in the process of building bombs. Now, most people I knew had access to firearms, as it was a big hunting town, but I didn’t have any guns in my house, I didn’t know how to build a bomb, and weapons didn’t interest me at all.
Within a few days, rumors of me wanting to go berserk went far and wide, and even made front pages of the local newspapers. Since I was a minor, my name wasn’t mentioned but there was constant mention of a “girl who wrote a short prom killing story.”
TRACING KODY MAXSON, THE ONLINE BLACKMAILER ALLEGED TO HAVE TORMENTED AMANDA TODD
In the days that have passed since my initial report about Amanda Todd’s suicide, the story has become even more convoluted and concerning. That piece focused on the misrepresentation of Amanda’s story by the mainstream media, who wrongfully painted it as a case of traditional schoolyard bullying that just happened to transpire over the internet. It also detailed the vigilante efforts of a small New Jersey-based sect of the hacktivist group Anonymous whose deep-diving web research linked her allegations of being stalked and tormented to a man named Kody Maxson. At this point no one can definitively link him to Amanda’s suicide; however, it has become very apparent that Kody’s internet habits and moral character are unilaterally disgusting and mostly revolve around online sexual extortion.
Shortly after Monday’s article was published, I was contacted by an IT security expert who agreed to give me information on background but wishes to remain unnamed. He had taken it upon himself to look into one of the email accounts Anonymous had pointed to in last Friday’s leak of Kody’s personal information—namely—email@example.com—and discovered it was unregistered. After proving his claim by sending me an email from the account, he told me its inbox was full of death threats and media inquiries. He also posited that perhaps the address had never existed in the first place; however we both agreed that it was entirely possible that Kody Maxson could have disabled it shortly before the Anonymous leak to avoid attention.
That said, after the IT consultant raised the possibility that Kody Maxson could be a completely fictitious individual created to throw the authorities and other interested parties off the trail of the actual perpetrator, a central component of a large-scale trolling, or completely unconnected to Amanda Todd’s suicide, I decided to thoroughly vet Anonymous’s background research on Kody myself.
In an email correspondence that I had with a member of the New Jersey sect of Anonymous who provided the initial leak, this individual told me, “I’m pretty certain that Kody was involved with Amanda’s death. He’s a known pedophile with charges against him. He has blackmailed other girls over webcam in the same manner and he has admitted to being friends with her online. I know it’s not hard evidence, but he looks guilty to me.” This is all conjecture, of course, but it makes it very apparent why Anonymous decided to acquire and leak his information in the first place.
Taking this research into my own hands, I googled “Kody Maxson” using a filter to exclude “Amanda Todd” so that my search results would only produce webpages that included Kody’s name before Anonymous or the media had publicly connected him to Amanda.
The above “like” and comment is from Kody Maxson on a video of the 2011 riots in Vancouver that erupted after the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which he described as a “fun night.” It also led me straight to Kody Maxson’s Facebook profile. I discovered that the Facebook profile my search results provided a link to had been renamed from “Kody Maxson” to “John Doee;” however, as you can see above, the very same profile was still showing up in Google’s cache as “Kody Maxson.” Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of websites and social networking knows that renaming a Facebook profile does very little to mask one’s true identity, and, more importantly, that the internet never forgets anything. Even more tellingly, the profile was registered under the URL facebook.com/kody604 (which, of course, has since been deactivated—but not before I took some screenshots!), with the “604” presumably selected because it is Vancouver’s area code. (To be clear, all of the Facebook information I have discovered was posted as public information available through a simple Google search.)
At the time of my discovery, the Facebook profile for John Doee/Kody Maxson’s stated that he lived Havana, Cuba. By digging a bit into his timeline, I found a personal “25 Questions” quiz in which he listed Semiahmoo Secondary and Earl Mariott Secondary as the “best” schools besides Hogwarts. While the fictional magic academy is not located in Surrey, British Columbia, both of the other schools listed are.
So it’s clear that there is—or at least was—a Kody Maxson living in Surrey, British Columbia, and based on my research I believe that he either purposefully created an account including as little personal information as possible or at one point he scrubbed his profile of this information. Either way, he did a pretty sloppy job.
Additional searches for information on Kody led to a website called Websites R’ Us, that Kody seemed to have establish in an attempt to drum up potential business as a website designer. The grammar and design of the site was atrocious, so I imagine that career resulted in a dead-end for him. The site was active when I discovered it early Tuesday morning, but it has since been taken offline. On the site, Kody wrote that the Websites R’ Us office was based out of Delta, British Columbia. Delta borders Surrey. The website also listed firstname.lastname@example.org as his contact address—the same address that the IT security expert who replied to my aforementioned email had re-registered last Friday.
ANONYMOUS TRACKED DOWN THE JAILBAIT LOVING PERV WHO DESTROYED AMANDA TODD’S LIFE
In September of this year, a 15-year-old girl named Amanda Todd from British Columbia posted a video onto Youtube in which she detailed a terribly fucked up story with Bob Dylan-esque cue cards, of how one internet pedophile had deliberately destroyed her happiness. You can get all of the painful details from the video, but basically she flashed a strange guy while she was in the seventh grade over webcam. That image got into the hands of a pedophile who tracked her through high school, then leaked the images to her friends and family, while continuing to stalk her online and heavily disrupt her life. Some of the Canadian mainstream media have described it as “bullying… through online social media” but clearly this pattern of controlling and destructive behavior is more than just a case of “no one likes you” wall posts and “you’re fat” instant messages.
In light of the recent exposure of Reddit’s most notorious jailbait administrating troll by Gawker, and the news of Hunter Moore’s disgusting little empire embarking on a new online endeavor, it seems like all eyes are uncomfortably on the jailbait exploitation community on the internet. While jailbait certainly has a more palatable ring to it than child porn, it has clearly become a very insidious force on the internet that is pitting overly clever pedophiles against insecure teenagers.
Unfortunately the Amanda Todd story gets worse, as her exploitation did not end at death. After autopsy photos of Amanda, naked and deceased, leaked onto the internet, the hacktivist group Anonymous responded. Anonymous claimed that a teenager named Alex Ramos distributed the photos, and proceeded to bomb his Twitter account. In what was publicly available on Alex’s Twitter timeline yesterday night, he insisted that what he found was simply available over Google Images. The biography of his Twitter account has now been hacked to say “Raging faggot that loves posting nudes of a dead suicide victim.”
I went to school with a kid named Phil McCracken. I am a big fan of juvenile humor, so you can see why I love this title. Recently I was informed that there’s a skateboarder in England who is gaining popularity with the birth name Ash Hall. That’s right. There’s an Ash Hall skater running around jolly ole England shitting on everything. Oh, how my heart sang when I heard about him. I emailed my friend Ben at the UK skate bible Sidewalk in ALL CAPS insisting that he couldn’t possibly be my friend if he’d hide the UK’s Ash Hall from me. I told him how I wanted to speak to this Ash Hall, get all inside this Ash Hall. He responded confused, unsure what I meant. I shot back, “THE KID’S PARENTS NAMED HIM ASSHOLE!! YOU DON’T THINK THAT’S A PERSON OF INTEREST TO ME???” “Oh, I see,” he replied, unamused. Turns out that something was lost in the translation, since the UK refers to the tushy as arse and not ass. And so this Ash Hall has managed to avoid a lifetime of asshole jokes! But no more. He and I are going to become friends, and I am going to make up for his non-English-speaking countrymen who couldn’t put two and two together.
As a child I was called Chris Piss. The taunting backfired. I thought it was a hilarious moniker. To the disdain of my teachers, I began to sign my tests and homework Chris Piss. I gave my other classmates similarly crude nicknames. Their reactions were not as accepting and entertained as my own.
In high school—my second high school, that is, after I was removed from my first for putting my algebra teacher in the hospital by breaking her neck (total accident)—I was placed in a Catholic school for a year where the girls wore polyester skirts and form-fitting white button-up shirts. Not even the baggiest of cardigans could hide the fat rolls that were tucked into those blouses. There was one girl in history class named Sue who shimmied like Jello at all points below the chin. She looked like a bowl of soup ready to spill out at any moment. So I sat beside SUE from September to June, whispering the word SOUP to her from 10:15 AM to 11 AM Monday through Friday, except on holidays. Soup. No one heard me but her. It was not for the class’s amusement, just my own. Soup. She’d beg the teacher to make me stop, but no one else had heard me. Soup. So no one could corroborate her story. Soup. Not to mention I excelled in history. Soup. Especially the chapters dealing with 1939 to 1945. Soup. Did you know when given the chance to choose my home phone number, I picked the one ending in 1942, soup, because it was the year of the Battle of Midway? Soup. Recently at a carnival in my hometown I saw her and she looked fantastic. I’d like to think my saying Soup to her aided in her transformation. She came up to me, in front of my wife and child, and unleashed nearly 20 years of pent-up rage. How she hates me, hates the mention of the word soup, etc., blah blah, etc. I smiled politely, apologized—not for what I’d done, but for not remembering who she was or what she was talking about. It devastated her that it meant nothing to me (although I did remember clear as day). As she turned and went off crying, I called out one last time, “SOUP!” She looked back as if she were going to vomit. I merely smiled again and waved.
More Chris can be found at Chrisnieratko.com and @Nieratko on Twitter.