People aligned with extremist websites have started to feel the repercussions since a major hack revealed their identities. On the other side, for those who work against extremism and hate groups, the data dump is a boon. The information was published by Anonymous, a hacking group, after an attack on Epik, an internet services company used heavily by the far right, the Washington Post reports. In a filing about the breach with the government of Maine, Epik said the financial and account security information of 110,000 people was exposed. A spokesperson said the hack was "an egregious violation against our users."
A researcher with the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism said it usually takes much time to learn about far-right sites and the names behind them, as well as where the money comes from that keeps them going. But the Epik reveal "is like somebody has just handed you all the detective work," Heidi Beirich said, adding "as the data is analyzed and looked at more deeply, we’re going to see this ecosystem in a way that was simply not possible before." The internet services company has been "at the center of so many of the extremist websites and organizations that people like me study," Beirich said.
Epik has served QAnon theorists, Proud Boys, and other groups that supported the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, per the Post. Sites kicked off mainstream platforms have found a home at Epik, per TechCrunch, as has One America News. An Epik spokesman said the company "offers its services to everyone" and has hosted hundreds of thousands of domains, some of which are bound to be offensive. Still, right-wing domains account for less than 1% of the company's users, the spokesperson said. Epik says it does not censor users.
The users whose names were uncovered in the Anonymous data dump are starting to feel consequences. Joshua Alayon, a Florida real estate agent, lost his job because invoices released indicated he had paid for domain names such as racisminc.com, whitesencyclopedia.com, christiansagainstisrael.com, and theholocaustisfake.com. The owner of the brokerage where Alayon worked said he doesn't want "to be involved with anyone with thoughts or motives like that." A co-founder of Anonymous said hackers acted because Epik takes in extremists. "Everyone is tired of hate," Aubrey "Kirtaner" Cottle said. "There hasn’t been enough pushback." (Read more hack stories.)