News that Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys had been indicted for allegedly conspiring with Anonymous shocked his colleagues in online media. Keys has always seemed like a normal guy who constantly tweets news links. But in the wake of his indictment, details about his online past have emerged that make his entanglement with Anonymous seem less out of character.
It turns out Keys has had a history of unusual internet behavior, as pointed out by BuzzFeed. The troll knowledgebase Encyclopedia Dramatica outlines a long list (NSFW) of his alleged internet escapades, which he carried out under a number of handles including madrigalskylark, angelofadia and sunriseagain. Encyclopedia Dramatica is far from a reliable source, but the fact that he has such a long and detailed entry suggests he was mixed up in a seedy online crowd.
In the mid-2000s, under the handle MadrigalSkylark on Livejournal, Keys was apparently a notorious troll, known for starting drama. Encyclopedia Dramatica contends that MadrigalSkylark was "known for his attention whore antics, leaving phony suicide notes, passive-aggressive bitchiness," and more. Some of the allegations on Encyclopedia Dramatic include that he was obsessed with the Los Angeles radio station KLLC, to the point that the station had to publicly declare he was not an employee. Keys was also apparently banned from Daviswiki, community-powered news and information resource on Davis, California after trolling the site with a number of sockpuppet accounts.
"I don't believe *anyone else* has ever been nominated for a ban on the wiki except for Matthew Keys who started purposefully vandalizing it and trying to get banned," wrote a poster on Davis Wiki
At the same time, it seems Keys was struggling with personal issues. In 2005 he posted to Livejournal a post post called "A Cry for Help," in which he wrote: "I'm really not deserving of anyone's love. No wonder I don't have any friends. Look at how I act! I need help. What's wrong with me?!"
Others have alleged creepy behavior on gay dating sites from the time. Gawker commenter dogmaticequation says he knew Keys online "years ago" and wrote that Keys, who is openly gay:
Would make life hell for people who refused to date him. He would stalk and use his tenuous grasp of early social networking to create shitty websites and Craigslist posts full of lies and material created to defame people he didn't like.
He did this to me, he kept trying to get me to go out with him. I refused. Instead of attacking me he went after one of my friends (who he thought was my Boyfriend). He posted fake profiles on dating sights, and posts on Craigslist with his image, with copy that stated that he had herpes, HIV and other diseases.
Juding from posts on his various blogs he seemed to have kept relatively online from 2006 until late 2010. It was then that he reached out to Anonymous hackers, in a move that ultimately led to his indictment. Keys told me at the time that he sought out an Anonymous IRC chat room, and offered to use his journalistic experience as a press liaison for them, after reading about the group's attacks on credit card companies that had cut off Wikileaks in December, 2010. He was then brought into the fold by a group of elite hackers.
Here is how he described his infiltration to me in a phone interview in December, 2010:
"The day that the decentralized group started hacking Visa's and Mastercard's websites with DDoS attacks, I went into their IRC room and wound up befriending someone who belonged to this higher ranking group called the Internet Feds. I identified myself as a former journalist, which was why they allowed me in that group. [to act as a press liaison.] It was me and about 14 people, mostly hackers."
(Keys reached out to me after Gawker was hacked by a team of hackers made up of Internet Feds members.)
But Keys said he'd always planned on exposing the group. Over the course of the next few months, he did provide Gawker with inside information and chat transcripts relating to the so-called Internet Feds, an Anonymous subgroup out of which the notorious Lulzsec gang emerged. His defense claims he was acting solely as an undercover journalist. "He's being prosecuted for that, for going to get the story," one of Keys' attorneys, told the Huffington Post.
Prosecutors say he went much further than that. Under the handle AESCracked, he allegedly gave hackers the login credentials related to his job at a radio station owned by the Tribune Company, which owns the Los Angeles Times, after he was fired. The hackers allegedly used the logins to deface a Los Angeles Times story among other hacks. Now Keys faces 25 years in prison.
Although he's suspended from Reuters, Keys has been keeping his 22,000 followers up to date on his case on Twitter. On Twitter he announced that he's tapped lawyers Jay Leiderman, who has been involved in a number of high-profile Anonymous cases, and Tor Ekelund, who defended the notorious internet troll Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer, to represent him. When a Twitter user named Rob Engelsman tweeted that he'd been discussing Keys' at the bar with friends, Keys tweeted, "where's the bar?"