The war between the “fascists” and “anti-fascists” in the United States has been playing out on the streets and online, but who are these masked protestors and "Make America Great Again"-wearing strangers?
A group of Trump supporters online sought to find out and created a document with the personal information and photos of thousands of people, reports BuzzFeed News. The online Pastebin file, which has reportedly been traveling the Internet since April, apparently has grown exponentially.
The file has been removed, but prior to its removal, BuzzFeed News posted screenshots and reported that the file contained thousands of phone numbers, addresses, and social media accounts of people loosely associated with the radical protest group “Antifa.”
This reddit thread confirms the online list, and warns other Antifa members to cover up and hide their faces. But will that do the trick?
The document’s intro claims the information was received from a hacked Antifa database, but Antifa isn’t a nationally-organized group. Organizers rely on regional and local groups — despite conservative conspiracy theories stating otherwise.
While the information is a mix from around the country, the origins of the info go back to a petition set up in April by the organization Refuse Fascism. Participants signed a letter on RefuseFascism.org condemning the Trump administration.
“We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America! Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime,” the petition reads. “The Trump/Pence Regime is a Fascist Regime. Not insult or exaggeration, this is what it is. For the future of humanity and the planet, we, the people, must drive this regime out.”
According to BuzzFeed, 4chan users drew from the list to organize a method of figuring out who the people were and putting their information into a database.
Since then though, the list has grown and expanded to include people not only associated with Refuse Fascism, but with other groups like pro-immigration coalition BAMN (By Any Means Necessary).
This list doesn’t just contain the information of those strongly associated with protest groups. The list was compiled through crowdsourcing, which means if someone in a photo at a protest is identified, there’s a possibility that human error identified the wrong person. Basically, the information being inputted is not being crosschecked; it’s an educated guess.
BuzzFeed went so far as to assert that if you clicked “attending” on a large anti-Trump protest in the last six months, there’s a chance you’re on the list. However, there is no method to verify how this information is being collected.
While the document continually is being circulated on message boards, is there any action beyond this gathering of information?
There’s a claim that an Antifa house was infiltrated by these far-right fanatics, but there’s no proof that’s true. Either way, it is clear that while the far-left continues to protest in the streets, the alt-right is taking up space online.
Anon on /pol/ claims he infiltrated an Antifa/BAMN group, says they plan to attack off-duty cops after Nov. 4.— /pol/ News Infinity (@polNewsInfinity) September 21, 2017
No proof, but worth watching. pic.twitter.com/GHtkiw5kiE
While this type of action may not appear to be dangerous, it is still slightly concerning. What use is the personal information of thousands of people who oppose Trump?
With everyone’s information leaking out onto the web through social media and other community sites, it’s easy to see how something like this could happen. In the future, these communities will shape our politics as they grow stronger in the age of social media and digital interaction.
Still, it’s important that while we use these tools to build community groups online, that we’re careful of crossing a line between information sharing and online terrorism.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst