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Tue Jan 8, 2013, 07:30 PM

Inside the Search for the Truth About Steubenville 1,000 Tips at a Time


When the case surrounding the alleged August rape of a 16-year-old girl by two high-school football players in a small Ohio city went viral last week, the attention of a nation turned to a little-known outfit called LocalLeaks, a website styling itself after WikiLeaks and partnering with the do-gooder hacking collective Anonymous on a document and video dump that it calls The Steubenville Files. Now, as the secretive editors, hackers, and lawyers behind LocalLeaks prepare to release "huge revelations" in anticipation of next month's trial, they've disclosed to The Atlantic Wire how they're enhancing their operation to transform a flood of local tips into evidence in the court of public opinion and what they're about to reveal next, about the controversial county sheriff's alleged involvement in a gambling ring and beyond.

Overwhelmed, and Inventing a Leak Process 'on the Fly'

LocalLeaks' editor-in-chief, who remained anonymous while exchanging emails with The Atlantic Wire this week, says the site is "very similar to WikiLeaks." But the group have no interest in the high public profile of Julian Assange: LocalLeaks members are not revealing their identities, and not just because of its "working relationship" with the KnightSec branch of the Anonymous collective. A far cry from hackers and activists in Guy Fawkes masks, LocalLeaks is a smaller clan of "truth-seekers" spread across the globe; KnightSec "is NOT responsible and has no control over what we publish on LocalLeaks," the editor wrote. When asked where the group was located, the editor responded "Planet Earth," adding that he and a chief analyst live outside of the United States, working alongside a California-based lawyer and a group of 10 volunteers that may soon grow to 20 or 25, along with considerations of "adding a fourth permanent staff person as well, possibly a professional journalist."

But in a case where even the tight-knit city's police chief has "begged" witnesses to come forward, the group's anonymity has led to a flood of leaks "well over 1,000" so far from in and around the city of 18,000, and between 50-100 more coming in each day. So far information on the case that was first published by LocaLeaks includes a detailed account of the alleged rape itself, as well as character profiles and damaging videos. The editor described the LocalLeaks workflow as "a bit chaotic and a work in progress at this point," and admitted that "we are actually having a difficult time even storing the leaks electronically." If storing the information is a problem, what about trying to confirm the tips? This is how the LocalLeaks editor described their verification process:

This gigantic volume of material has caused us literally have to invent an analysis process on the fly. We set as our initial goal in the disclosure to identify the key people and places involved in the story, and use that as an initial framework for the disclosure. To do that, we literally used the wall of our office space, printing out and hanging material on the wall and using colored string to make connections. Sounds messy I know, but for our initial analysis it worked we were able to see the basic outlines of the story and do a global release. Eventually we plan on trying to find some sort of software and projection technology to accomplish the same thing, but right now if we had to do it again we would probably just use the wall!



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Reply Inside the Search for the Truth About Steubenville 1,000 Tips at a Time (Original post)
DonViejo Jan 2013 OP
riderinthestorm Jan 2013 #1
Danascot Jan 2013 #2
seabeyond Jan 2013 #5
rhett o rick Jan 2013 #3
starroute Jan 2013 #4
rhett o rick Jan 2013 #6
starroute Jan 2013 #7

Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Tue Jan 8, 2013, 07:36 PM

1. Does anyone know if they have a paypal account set up? I'd donate. Thanks for the OP! K&R nt

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Response to riderinthestorm (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 8, 2013, 09:13 PM

2. There's a donate button on their main site


I was thinking there had to be a lot more information about this case out in the community that hadn't come out yet - that we'd heard only the tip of the iceburg. It appears that a lot of people have a lot to say, and likely not just about the rape but about gambling, drugs and corruption in Steubenville. I think this is about to become a lot more interesting.

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Response to Danascot (Reply #2)

Tue Jan 8, 2013, 11:38 PM

5. you know, and with the ease on sending info out, without likelihood of getting caught,


no surprise.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Tue Jan 8, 2013, 09:29 PM

3. This sounds great but I see some problems.


The justice system in this country is one of the best in the world. But it certainly has its problems. I see some hope here that people outside the system might be able to "help" the system by pointing out evidence that might otherwise be ignored. However, there might not be appropriate safeguards to protect innocent people from being libeled or injured by this process. I hope it works out and isnt corrupted by the corrupt.

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Response to rhett o rick (Reply #3)

Tue Jan 8, 2013, 11:30 PM

4. These LocalLeaks people seem a lot more cautious than Anonynous

I don't believe the justice system is as good as you say it is. A lot of things fall through the cracks or are swept under the rug. A lot of towns and counties are run by good old boy networks that protect their own. In some places, there's justice for entrenched interests but not for minorities or outsiders.

These things are very real problems. These are situations where it generally isn't possible for outsiders to "help" the system -- because the system itself is broken. And all could use the attention of something like LocalLeaks.

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Response to starroute (Reply #4)

Tue Jan 8, 2013, 11:44 PM

6. First let me be clear that I wish the best for LocalLeaks and Anon both.


And I very much agree that our justice system is broken, especially favoring the elites*. But my point is that even with flaws, as far as I can tell, the justice system in the USofA is better than most countries. I only say that to emphasize that we dont want to destroy it, only fix it. Outside sources (outside the system) can help, but we must tread carefully and make sure we dont harm innocent people in our fervor to get justice.

*elite meaning the financially elite and not the intellectually elite.

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Response to rhett o rick (Reply #6)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 02:16 AM

7. There I can agree with you

Anonymous has sometimes been a little too scattershot, which is why I'm glad that LocalLeaks appears to be more mature and less inclined to vigilante justice.

But beyond that, I have a feeling that our justice system has become too impersonal and even divorced from reality. What was once trial by a jury of one's peers -- people who knew you and your issues and could make their own assessment of the case -- has turned into a search for jurors who are blank slates, completely ignorant of the facts and the participants. There are too many purely formal loopholes that can be exploited by canny attorneys. And much of it starts to look more like a game of let's pretend than like a search for truth.

So on that level, I'm not sure that a system of public shaming might not operate better under certain circumstances -- particularly those involving crimes that shock the conscience -- than an increasingly artificial and deliberately amoral legal system.

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