Andrew Auernheimer, a hacker and internet troll known as “Weev” who is serving a 41-month prison sentence under murky legal circumstances, is currently incarcerated in New York's Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC). Auernheimer is also prolifically tweeting under the username @rabite from inside the MDC, thanks to a service which lets federal inmates email the outside world.
Trulincs, the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System, is an in-prison email service designed to provide inmates with limited internet communications. Inmates, who pay for access, can write emails to approved outside contacts--but they do not have direct internet access. These emails are then reviewed by federal prison officials before being sent out through a related system called Corrlinks.
Corrlinks, which is operated by a for-profit vendor called the Advanced Technology Group, does not charge inmates at federal prisons. However, sending messages to inmates in Iowa, Minnesota, and Oklahoma results in a $.25-.30 charge per message to contacts and loved ones. Emails are reviewed by prison staff before being delivered, in printed form, to inmates.
Auernheimer is successfully tweeting from inside the MDC via TRULINC messages to a contact named Meredith Patterson whom he named in a Tweet. Several third-party services, such as Tweetymail, also offer users the ability to post tweets via email. Twitter also has a separate program which lets users post via SMS text message.
From within the MDC, Auernheimer's tweets are a mixture of calls to reform cybercrime laws, trolling, complaints about prison food (Auernheimer has celiac disease), and descriptions of prison life.
For lack of a Twitter client, replying is hard. I print out mentions and giggle at them during lockdown. They are cherished.— Andrew Auernheimer (@rabite) April 5, 2013
The most annoying whiners in federal prison are white NORPs in for tax fraud. The coolest prisoners are bank robbers.— Andrew Auernheimer (@rabite) April 5, 2013
The real path to stopping cybercrime is not to throw researchers in jail, but to fund impactful research. #RepealCFAA— Andrew Auernheimer (@rabite) April 4, 2013
Tyrannical bail conditions restrain me no longer. I am starting a new Internet trolling organization. Who is in?— Andrew Auernheimer (@rabite) April 4, 2013
That someone works as a nutritionist and thinks that white bread isn't made of wheat proves genocide can be good.— Andrew Auernheimer (@rabite) April 4, 2013
Actual quote from BOP "nutritionist": "You don't need to worry, all our flour is white, not wheat."— Andrew Auernheimer (@rabite) April 4, 2013
TRULINCS, as a program, is restricted to federal prisoners. State prisoners nationwide largely lack access to the internet. Workarounds have been created for this, however. The MIT Center for Civic Media has one of America's best known projects. Between The Bars is a blogging platform, currently under development, which lets prisoners blog via standard snail mail. Other states offer limited internet access through the prison library.
Weev's prison sentence is the result of that was found due to security lapses on AT&T's servers. Auernheimer's hack resulted in a prison sentence on one count of identity fraud and one count of conspiracy. The major problem, however, is that the court ruling depended on spurious charges. The data Auernheimer accessed was openly available and was not protected by AT&T; AT&T was also let off the hook for a shockingly inept security lapse. In essence, Auernheimer received a jail sentence for whistleblowing.
Complicating the issue is the fact that Auernheimer's internet trolling crossed the line into harassing and self-aggrandizing behavior which makes it hard to view him as a sympathetic figure. Back in 2010, Fast Company's Addy Dugdale profiled Weev's prolific internet trolling. Auernheimer, who claims to be of Jewish descent, was reportedly investigated by the FBI for phoning a Portland synagogue and telling them “The Nazis are coming to get you; there will be another Holocaust” as well as ranting about Jewish bankers to a Gawker reporter.
Then there is the issue of Kathy Sierra. Sierra, a prolific programming author, announced in 2007 that she was canceling a public appearance after receiving hate mail and death threats related to being a woman in the tech industry. Auernheimer posted Sierra's address and social security number to the internet for fun along with a fake biography filled with misogynistic sexual innuendo.
Auernheimer continues to troll from prison; a recent Twitter post he boasted “In space I'll etch goatse into planetary bodies.”
[Image: Flickr user Pinguino]