The Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for its hateful missives and demonstrations at funerals in the United States, has once again been targeted by Anonymous for its newest assault on human decency. After the WBC announced that it planned to picket at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, following a shooting rampage that killed 26 educators and children there on Friday, Anonymous responded by dumping personal information of WBC members on the internet, including their phone numbers and home addresses. For years, the WBC has routinely shown up at the funerals of veterans and at other venues to proselytize grieving families and other groups with its anti-gay message — the group says that the world's tragedies are linked to homosexuality and a so-called "homosexual agenda."
Westboro will picket Sandy Hook Elementary School to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.— Shirley Phelps-Roper (@DearShirley) December 15, 2012
Along with the personal info dump, Anonymous also released a new video addressing the WBC, in which it says "from the time you have received this message, our attack protocol has past been executed and your downfall is underway." Such grandiose language is typical of Anonymous — as is the idea that releasing people's phone numbers on the internet will make a difference — and it's not clear if any further action will be taken. To its credit, the group has endorsed action through official channels, publicizing a petition to the White House that asks for the WBC to be legally recognized as a hate group. (Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center already recognize the WBC as a hate group, calling it "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.")
Anonymous has endured its own share of criticism in recent years, with governments around the world condemning its actions and prosecuting its members. The group is a nebulous "hacktivist" collective that regularly targets websites of corporations or government entities with DDoS attacks or other pranks. While government officials and the public may not endorse the group's behavior universally, its latest choice for a target isn't likely to upset those who have been following the violent tragedy in Connecticut since Friday.
Update: Someone has followed up on Anon's threat by taking over the Twitter account of Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for the WBC. As you can see, the tweets from Phelps-Roper's account now have a very different tone from earlier tweets:
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