Reuters social media editor indicted for allegedly aiding Anonymous in hacking

U.S. Department of Justice | Politico | The Huffington Post | BuzzFeed | Gizmodo | The New York Times | LA Weekly

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California have indicted Reuters Deputy Social Media Editor Matthew Keys “for allegedly conspiring with members of the hacker group “Anonymous” to hack into and alter a Tribune Company website,” a DOJ statement reads.

In an email to Poynter, a Tribune spokesperson declined to comment.

Keys is a popular presence on Twitter. The document reads:

The three-count indictment alleges that in December 2010 Keys provided members of the hacker group Anonymous with log-in credentials for a computer server belonging to KTXL FOX 40’s corporate parent, the Tribune Company. According to the indictment, Keys identified himself on an Internet chat forum as a former Tribune Company employee and provided members of Anonymous with a login and password to the Tribune Company server. After providing log-in credentials, Keys allegedly encouraged the Anonymous members to disrupt the website. According to the indictment, at least one of the computer hackers used the credentials provided by Keys to log into the Tribune Company server, and ultimately that hacker made changes to the web version of a Los Angeles Times news feature.

HuffPost reporter Ryan J. Reilly broke the news on Twitter:

Via Reilly, here’s Keys’ indictment. It says, in part, that Keys “told the unnamed individuals he was a former employee, proceeded to give them a username and password, and told them to ‘go fuck some shit up.’” One individual the document calls a “member of the conspiracy” allegedly changed content in a Los Angeles Times story to read, “House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer sees ‘very good things’ in the deal cut which will see uber skid Chippy 1337 take his rightful place, as head of the Senate, reluctant House Democrats told to SUCK IT UP.”

In LA Weekly, Dennis Romero says this appears to be the article.

A 2011 Gawker piece by John Cook and Adrian Chen says Keys “infiltrated” Anonymous. Keys wrote about it in March 2012.

“The charges on Thursday call into question Mr. Key’s reporting scoops at Reuters and whether those could have been the result of computer hacking,” Amy Chozick writes in The New York Times.

In a Reddit chat last year, Keys said he left Tribune-owned KTXL in 2010: “I was laid off (or fired, or quit, jury’s still out on this one),” he wrote.

Reuters posted a brief story Thursday night that notes the indictment says “The incident occurred prior to his employment by Thomson Reuters Corp.” Sam Biddle reports in Gizmodo that a Keys told a friend he thought he was “Probably being let go” by Reuters.

Reuters corporate affairs’ David Girardin sent a statement to Poynter:

“We are aware of the charges brought by the Department of Justice against Matthew Keys, an employee of our news organization. Thomson Reuters is committed to obeying the rules and regulations in every jurisdiction in which it operates. Any legal violations, or failures to comply with the company’s own strict set of principles and standards, can result in disciplinary action. We would also observe the indictment alleges the conduct occurred in December 2010; Mr. Keys joined Reuters in 2012, and while investigations continue we will have no further comment.”

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  • Barry Kort

    The Feds could care less about a prank on the LA Times web site. What they care about is obtaining information that might lead them to discover the identities of members of the Anonymous collective.

    Because of journalistic privilege, the Feds needed a crowbar to divorce Keys from his privilege as a journalist. That’s why they indicted him.

    It looks to me like the DoJ is less interested in a conviction and more interested in coercing or manipulating Matthew Keys into divulging information about the unidentified members of the Anonymous collective.

    The Feds indicted Matthew Keys for the same reason they indicted Aaron Swartz — as a means to obtain information potentially leading to the identities of the members of the Anonymous collective or WikiLeaks. That’s what the Secret Service really cares about, and that’s why they are behind these draconian indictments.

    Whether or not this amounts to “prosecutorial abuse” or “an appropriate use of prosecutorial discretion” is an issue that experts in legal scholarship and professional ethics will have a field day with.