Journalists are supposed to report the news, not be the news. Someone should’ve told that to Matthew Keys. The deputy social media editor for Reuters was just indicted for conspiring with Anonymous to hack a Tribune website. According to the Department of Justice, Keys — who used to work at The Tribune Company — encouraged the contact to disrupt the site and even offered his login to access the company server.
At 26, Keys may be young, but he’s not exactly an unknown on the webs. Last year, Time listed his personal Twitter account as one of its 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012. That was also the year when he joined Reuters’ social media department, in January.
But the incident goes back before he joined the newswire, to 2010. This was when Keys allegedly gave up his login credentials to the Anonymous hacker. It’s possible that he did this to earn the members’ trust and get access for news leads about them. Last year, he wrote on his blog that he gave chat logs with high level Anonymous hackers to Gawker, which cited Keys when it outed those names in an article. He also passed the information to PBS Newshour and an unnamed overseas news organization. Apparently, The Guardian was the outfit that received the leak, or so the members thought, and they promptly banned Keys (known as AESCracked) from the channel. And Sabu — the infamous former Anonymous member/Lulzsec leader–turned–FBI snitch — even claimed that Keys offered administrator access to Tribune’s online publishing system just so he could “hang out in our channel.”
Of course, there’s another possibility: Keys’ motivations could have been personal. After all, the subject was his former employer, and who among us hasn’t fantasized about getting back at someone (or some company) who’s done us wrong?
As for his current employer, Reuters had this to say:
“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.”
There has been a lot of talk and speculation surrounding this incident, which, at its core, really only amounted to a pretty innocuous and fairly lame-brained prank. For whatever reason — whether it was to gain news leads, get revenge, or let Keys indulge his hacker-worship and feel like one of the tech-savvy elite — the social media editor gave Anonymous his old Tribune login. The result was a fake headline that survived all of half an hour before it got pulled down.
Here it is.
Now is that worth 30 years in prison and a $750,000 fine? Well, Keys will have to consider this, since that’s what he might get for this stunt.