The hacktivist collective had planned for the news site to bring together breaking news, reports and blogs from independent reporters online under its Your Anon News (YAN) branding. A campaign video had also noted it would give citizen journalists the ability to livestream events as they were taking place too.
However, the plan for the Anonymous news organization seems to have gone wrong, and it’s only now — more than a year after the crowdfunding campaign closed — that details have been revealed in a blog post by Anonymous members.
The troubles came to light over the weekend, when YAN wrote an open letter to Twitter urging it to not fulfil the request of a certain contributor @JackalAnon, who was seeking permission to assume custody of the @YourAnonNews Twitter account. It was alleged that @JackalAnon was a fraud, who took off with a large part of the money raised in the crowdfunding campaign.
Subsequently, in the follow-up post today, members in the Anonymous collective claimed that @JackalAnon had spearheaded the fundraiser and took charge of all spending decisions. In the end, only about $24,000 of the amount raised was accounted for, while the remaining $30,000 was missing.
We did not have access to, or handle, any of the money. There was some implicit trust at the start, but with delays and Jackal’s refusal to discuss the money, we eventually all reached the point of concluding the rest of it must be gone.
A programmer working on the site was repeatedly told by Jackal that he would be paid, yet he never received any payment. We were unsuccessful in receiving an answer to our repeated question — “Where did the money go?” and to date can only speculate.
However, in the open letter to Twitter, the Anonymous members pinned the missing amount at $35,000, which could be because they didn’t calculate as carefully at first.
The Anonymous members claim that in November 2013, @JackalAnon gave up the @YourAnonNews account to a group of activists who were not involved in his doings, seeking to lessen the blow that would come with revelations of his crime, but they managed to expel him entirely.
They say that they aren’t sure if @JackalAnon will pursue some back door account recovery, but in the meantime, the plan is to use the @YourAnonNews Twitter account to refocus the collective’s goal and tell “news that wouldn’t otherwise be told” — opening up to other anonymous sources, independent journalists and grassroots people who are seeking a boost in terms of outreach.
“We considered deleting the account, or renaming it. But this thing doesn’t belong to us, it is a product of everyone who has ever shared its articles and increased its reach. We take that responsibility very seriously,” Anonymous says.
Headline image via Rahman Roslan/Getty Images