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Why did YouTube pull Anonymous's warning to Maryville?

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“We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Join us.” It’s a familiar refrain—this time, directed at the town of Maryville, Mo., where a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a high school football star.

This video for #OpMaryville is typically dire, but it’s not deceptive—or is it? YouTube apparently disagrees. 

Earlier today, the website deleted the original version of a message meant to alert the lawmakers and townspeople of Maryville that they had awakened the slumbering beast known as the Internet collective Anonymous.

Granted, the beast doesn’t really slumber, and it’s usually angry. But in the wake of troubling allegations that the 12,000-person town harassed and drove out a rape victim and her family while her rapists walked free, increased publicity is important, even it comes from “hacktivists.” And while it could be seen as an attention-grabbing stunt, Anonymous’s message was successful; before it was pulled, the video had racked up over 130,000 views.

So it’s puzzling that YouTube took it down for violating “YouTube’s policy against spams, scams, and commercially deceptive content.”

“Since when is helping a rape victim an act of spam, scams, and commercially deceptive?” queried crypt0nymous, the operative who uploaded the video. It’s a valid question. The video, which was uploaded on the 14th, is a mirror of text versions of a letter Anonymous sent out across the Internet on Monday as word of the Maryville case spread. 

Ironically, according to their Tumblr, crypt0nymous claims to have recently left the Anonymous fold because the members were waiting around for “big hacks.” But its video, posted in the name of the cybercollective, is part of one of the most high-profile campaigns since Anonymous’ Steubenville protest, which led to the arrest and infamous FBI raid of a hacker who now urges the group to stay legal.

While it’s not clear what part of the video triggered YouTube’s censors, the video’s description is alarmist in tone, if not actually commercially deceptive. It describes the Maryville incident as “attempted murder,” possibly because the alleged rapists left the victim outside alone, in freezing weather, unable to walk. It also implicates Mo. State Rep. Rex Barnett, whose grandson is one of the alleged rapists.

Whether any of this is actually “commercially deceptive,” spam, or any other violation of YouTube’s policies, it’s a significant choice for YouTube to make—one that could have consequences for future Anonymous operations. 

But if Anonymous is legion, so are its mirrors of files. 

And while YouTube’s tactic could make Anonymous’s work a bit more difficult, it will take a bit more than a policy violation to delete the Internet’s anger over the Maryville rape case.

Photo via crypt0nymous/Tumblr