ST. LOUIS — Twitter on Thursday suspended an account linked to a loose-knit "hacktivist" group that released the name of a police officer it says shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Police, Ferguson's mayor and the stepmother of the man named all say the group is incorrect and that the person named is not a police officer.
Kathie Warnack, 48, started quietly crying when she learned that Anonymous had released the name of her stepson.
The St. Louis resident said her stepson is a 32-year-old police dispatcher in St. Ann, Mo., and before that a manager at a dollar store. He has never worked as a police officer — not in Ferguson or anywhere else, she said.
Her stepson also doesn't live at the address released by the group and rarely comes over, Warnack said.
"Wow, this is not good," said Warnack, as she began to cry on the steps of her home, which sits along a busy road.
"I guess I'm going to have to sleep with my gun and put cameras on the house," she said. "Now I have to defend myself and I didn't do anything wrong."
Warnack is disabled by a birth defect that means she has an artificial left leg and less than five misshapen fingers on each hand.
She said she has a small gun to protect herself, but has never used it.
Warnack added that she'll also rely on her four dogs — two German shepherds and two corgi. She's lived in her home for 18 years and shares it with her brother, sister-in-law and another stepson.
"Anonymous has really gotten out of hand," she said, her hand covering her mouth in disbelief. "As soon as you leave here, I'm going to try to call him (her stepson) at work and tell him what happened."
Warnack also said she planned to call her friends — some of whom are police officers — to warn them that her address "got hit."
Her biggest worry: "Just not knowing if someone could come by here," she said. "I've been watching everything unfold on the news and it's scary."
On Thursday, the @TheAnonMessage account released the name of a person it said was the officer involved in the shooting. That comment was later suspended.
Twitter says it does not comment on individual accounts, but did point to its rules. Those state that users may not "publish or post other people's private and confidential information" and may not "publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others."
Those involved appear to have since begun tweeting on a second address, @TheAnonMessage2
'WE ARE ANONYMOUS'
There is no one Anonymous group but rather several individuals who make statements and take action under the broad umbrella of the name.
Their YouTube videos often include a stylized image of a black and white suit with a question mark where the head should be. The voice overs are done using computer software, giving them an eerie tone.
They often use the tag line, "We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us."
GUY FAWKES IMAGE
In public protests, those representing themselves as Anonymous often wear Guy Fawkes masks. Fawkes was an English Catholic who participated in a plot to overthrow King James I and put a Catholic back on the English throne in 1605. The plot failed and Fawkes was condemned to death.
In recent years, Fawkes has been taken up as an icon by some anarchist groups, in part because of the use of a Guy Fawkes mask by the central character in the graphic novel "V for Vendetta" by Alan Moore and the subsequent movie.
In general, the decentralized collection of Internet savvy activists believe in freedom and and end to censorship. It supported the Occupy movement in the United States.
Someone claiming to be the group posted a video on YouTube on Monday. In the usual electronic voice used in its videos, it threatened to take down Ferguson's town website if "strict national standards for police conduct misbehavior" were not set.
"We are watching you very closely. If you abuse, harass or harm the protesters in Ferguson we will take every Web-based asset of your departments and federal agencies offline."
The Ferguson town Internet site crashed Tuesday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise in San Francisco