Everybody knew there would be repercussions if "Anonymous"—or whoever runs the now-suspended @TheAnonMessage Twitter account—released the name of the police officer it thought killed Michael Brown and turned out to be incorrect.
Kathie Warnack, 48, started quietly crying when she learned that Anonymous had released the name of her stepson.
The St. Louis resident said her stepson is a 32-year-old police dispatcher in St. Ann, Mo., and before that a manager at a dollar store. He has never worked as a police officer — not in Ferguson or anywhere else, she said.
Her stepson also doesn't live at the address released by the group and rarely comes over, Warnack said.
"Wow, this is not good," said Warnack, as she began to cry on the steps of her home, which sits along a busy road.
"I guess I'm going to have to sleep with my gun and put cameras on the house," she said. "Now I have to defend myself and I didn't do anything wrong."
Warnack is disabled by a birth defect that means she has an artificial left leg and less than five misshapen fingers on each hand.
As pointed out on Twitter by Adrian Chen, another Anonymous member revealed that @TheAnonMessage was not sure if the name he eventually released was the actual identity of Brown's killer but decided to do so anyway.
@TheAnonMessage said that he wasn't sure, but still gonna release. Some people he knew on IRC supported him and this idea.
— Anonymous (@Crypt0nymous) August 14, 2014
Internet hacktivists have done plenty of tangible social good in the last few years, but the amorphous nature of groups like Anonymous mean that screw-ups like this are unavoidable. Unfortunately, enough of the latter will eventually suffocate the former.
[image via Getty]