Thunder Bay

Hacker group policing the police, expert says

A social media watcher says threats like the ones levelled against Thunder Bay Police are becoming more common on the internet.

Social media expert says 'Anonymous' becoming more political in the targets it selects

A social media watcher says threats like the ones levelled against Thunder Bay Police are becoming more common on the internet.

The hacker group Anonymous posted a video accusing police of not doing enough to investigate violence against First Nations women.

Kate Milberry, a specialist in social media and surveillance with the University of Alberta, said Anonymous is becoming more political in the targets it selects.

"They're quite ominous in a way," she said.

"They are [making] threats, make no mistake … they really have this end-of-the-world feel to me. But this is how this particular movement has coalesced."

Holding police 'to account'

Milberry says the growth of social media may make police forces more accountable for their actions.

But it’s not just hacker groups like Anonymous who are trying to hold police answerable through technology.

Milberry said everyday citizens used the internet to expose police actions against G-20 protesters in Toronto two years ago.

"The world saw what unfolded in Toronto … 'Toronto Burning' ... [became] global headlines," she said.

"And so there was this ability for people to look back and to sort of record the police and there was this hope that this would hold them to account."

But the G20 example shows online sharing doesn't always guarantee accountability, Milberry said, noting that, out of the many officers who appeared to use excessive force, very few went to trial.     

Meanwhile, Anonymous has threatened to release what it calls "mountains of dirt" on the Thunder Bay police service, starting next week.

Kate Milberry, a specialist in social media and surveillance with the University of Alberta, said Anonymous is becoming more political in the targets it selects. (Supplied)

Milberry said many questions still surround this collective — a "nebulous and mysterious globally-distributed group."

"Anybody can participate, anybody can self-identify as an 'Anon', as they call themselves."

At its core, members are hackers, computer experts, security experts or people who are simply internet savvy, she said.

Anonymous has hacked into the FBI and "mostly they're dealing in information," Milberry noted.

"When [Anonymous] began, they really were mostly mobilizing around internet freedoms, but that has increasingly moved into the off-line world."

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