Over the summer, Anonymous began to heat up the media with rumors of a YourAnonNews site launching, based on the popular Twitter/Tumblr account that has become a leading source of activism news. A crowdsourcing campaign on IndieGoGo contributed over $50k to the project, and all signs pointed to a late summer launch.
We’re in the final quarter of 2013, and there’s still no YAN site to show for all the money donated. Activists, hackers, and Anons worldwide are beginning to get antsy and look for answers. T-shirts and cups promised for donations have yet to be delivered. The hive has been stirred up, and everybody’s pointing fingers.
So what happened?
There’s only three possible scenarios I see, and it’s up to each of us to fully examine both the situation and the people involved to work toward a resolution. As the debate is starting to heat up (with the ninjas in the #UnicormCr3w getting riled up and ready to start kicking ass and taking names), now’s a good time to familiarize yourselves with the epicenter of the finger-pointing debate.
Can Anarchists Manage a Project…?
Anyone familiar with YourAnonNews is aware the project was started by a couple of Anonymous anarchists in Colorado: @JackalAnon and @EisMC2. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to the two of them on several occasions over the years. When I first blew the whistle, Emmi (along with her sister) and Jackal were among the first people to reach out to me and provide support. Learning they were in charge of launching the website gave me confidence it would turn out ok.
On August 16, 2013, Emmi released a pastebin PR statement detailing what work had been done on the site. The next day, JoePie91, a fervent opponent of YourAnonNews, wrote a response blog, breaking down inconsistencies in Emmi’s statement. Jackal has gone silent (posting only about the large quantities of drugs he has access to), and Emmi appears to have her hands full handling critics.
Now, with an initial failure under their belt, the pressure is building on Emmi & Jackal to produce results. With critics popping up from every corner, both within Anonymous and externally, the current method isn’t working, and something needs to be done. The issues appear to be attributed more to the inexperience of the project managers than any bad intentions. However it happened, though, it seems to have isolated these two dedicated Anons, and, if the project is ever to materialize, it’ll take a lot of elbow grease that they likely won’t be capable of providing without help…but that’s only half the story…
The Journalist with a Cause…
While Jackal and Emmi were working on the technical and promotional aspects of YAN, they weren’t doing anything on the content side. When I was initially contacted about contributing to the project, it wasn’t by Jackal and Emmi, who know exactly where to find me; it was by Dell Cameron, a new-media journo who was working on both YourAnonNews and CNN whistleblower Amber Lyon’s Muckracker news sites.
Dell was out making initial contacts to various journalists and writers, looking for contributions to #YAN – the problem is he never followed up, and I never received any answers as to why. For every finger pointed in the direction of Jackal and Emmi, there’s another one pointed squarely at Cameron. Was YourAnonNews nothing more than a way for Dell Cameron and Amber Lyon to promote themselves? Or has Dell just been pulled in too many directions? Burnout is real, even for those of us who work from home.
Rumors like these have already spread on Twitter about both sides to this story:
YourAnonNews or OurAnonNews…?
Regardless of what happened, decisions need to be made. With SecureDrop, uStream, and Wikileaks already established, leakers, whistleblowers, and citizen journalists have options for reporting the news. Citizen journalism has already gone gonzo, and everyone has an equal opportunity to gain traction for their story. If a working and staffed site doesn’t go up soon, #YAN may just end up falling victim to its own success.
At the end of the day, YourAnonNews is a very ambitious project, but it appears not to have panned out. I’m certain those who donated to the project will be out for vengeance, but it’s vital that we don’t lose focus on the actual intent of the project: YourAnonNews was supposed to provide an open-sourced news platform, but ended up becoming a vanity project (although whose vanity it fanned is currently up for debate).
I say we scrap the entire thing and start again from scratch, transforming YourAnonNews, an elitest project with a small minority controlling the information flow of millions, into OurAnonNews, a truly open-sourced news aggregation service in which all news is submitted, and the hive-mind decides what’s popular via a voting system. If a story catches fire, it was meant to be. The only back-end involvement should be similar to that of Wikipedia (a non-profit that handles high-volume traffic with few issues).
That’s my 2 cents on the story, but what do you think of YourAnonNews and the future of #Anonymous?
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, freelance consultant, and troll. He’s a frequent contributor to The Street, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company, Huffington Post, Mainstreet, Lifehack, and HardcoreDroid.