You now can get hauled into federal court in the United States for sharing a link in a chat room, apparently.
Barrett Brown, the journalist covering Anonymous-related activities for news outlets like The Guardian, was charged late Friday with 12 charges including linking, identity theft and fraud related to the Stratfor Global Intelligence hack.
The indictment reads, “in that Brown transferred the hyperlink ‘http://wikisend.com/download/597646/stratfor_full_b.txt.gz’ from the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel called ‘#AnonOps’ to an IRC channel under Brown’s control called ‘#ProjectPM,’ said hyperlink provided access to data stolen from the company Stratfor Global Intelligence, to include in excess of 5,000 credit card account numbers.”
Brown, who's also writing a book about Anonymous, shared a link that thousands of people have shared before him. Brown is not charged with hacking into Stratfor, mind you, just linking. In fact, Brown's involvement with Stratfor was more as a press laison than anything else.
As someone who has been in and around Anonymous since 2008 as either as an activist or journalist, Brown’s indictment is downright terrifying. I’m not the only one that thinks so either.
Gawker’s Adrian Chen called this indictment “frightening because it seems to criminalize linking,” and he’s right. There is nothing in the language of the indictment that clarifies when it is okay to link to documents Anonymous puts publicly online.
I’ve linked to “stolen information” countless times in articles I have written about Anonymous activities, and I know of other journalists and bloggers who have done the same. Besides articles, I’ve also retweeted Anonymous posts, posts that contained information that could be classified as stolen. There is nothing in Brown’s indictment that clarifies whether sharing links in this manner is illegal either.
“Worryingly, there is no specific information to indicate what, if anything, differentiates Brown’s behavior from that of any Twitter user simply retweeting the link to those files,”wrote Lorraine Murphy at The Daily Dot.
Who else retweeting dodgy information will be arrested?
Immediately following news of Brown's indictment, Internet activists, journalists and bloggers protested by tweeting the link that got Brown arrested, under #RightToLink.