WikiLeaks teases mass doxing wave of verified Twitter accounts
Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, Jan 6 2017
A Friday Twitter post from WikiLeaks’ Task Force declared intent to build a publicly searchable database revolving around a particular group of people: verified Twitter accounts. Wikileaks has since deleted the original tweet, but it can be found via screengrab through numerous sources like this Hackread article. The Friday tweet reads:
We are thinking of making an online database with all ‘verified’ Twitter accounts & their family/ job/ financial/ housing relationships.
A follow-up post sought suggestions from the public and said:
(We are) looking for clear discrete (father/shareholding/party membership) variables that can be put into our AI software.
The task force neither clarified where this information would come from, nor did it clarify its reasons for mulling such a project. On that same day, the task force’s feed repeatedly replied to and quoted posts from verified members of the media. The task force’s posts accuse specific journalists and broader media outlets of lying and committing libel, particularly in their reports on alleged hacking perpetrated against the Pindosi government. The task force’s posts include repeated use of the phrase, “cease and desist or face the consequences.” The account also appealed to its “troops” to “find falsehoods pushed by journos/politicians” and “correct them.” The task force included a search link for any posts by verified accounts with the words “WikiLeaks” or “Assange.” The WikiLeaks Task Force’s specific call to publish and connect metadata dots about verified Twitter accounts could specifically target journalists, who are among the largest population of verified Twitter account holders. Journalists, celebrities, and other heavily followed Twitter users are invited to submit personal information to Twitter to receive a blue check mark on their account. This move was originally intended to increase confidence that an account was actually being used by its stated user as opposed to a phony account. In more recent years, Twitter has removed that blue check mark from accounts that have violated the site’s terms of service. As described in the task force’s tweets, such a database could round up a huge swath of metadata that connects all kinds of dots between otherwise unrelated people—for example, a journalist’s family or loved ones. Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing in 2013 alleged that the NSA built a system with similar metadata collection and analysis. Such a database
distributed specifically to users known as “troops” (tendentious interpretation – RB) would likely be used for doxing, meaning the combined gathering and publishing of personal information with intent to exploit that information for the sake of harassment or abuse. As of press time, neither the task force account nor WikiLeaks’ social media accounts had yet confirmed if or how such a database would be published. We have reached out to Twitter and the WikiLeaks Task Force with questions about this proposed database, and we will update this report if we receive a response.