Disgraced social media manager and avid Twitterer Matthew Keys was found guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento of conspiracy in a case dating back to 2013 involving Anonymous and the L.A. Times website. According to chat logs presented by the prosecution, as reported by The Verge, Keys gave login information to the backend of the LA Times to members of the Anonymous hacktivist collective, instructing them to "fuck shit up." This was in response to, or in retaliation for, Keys' firing from Sacramento TV station KTXL/FOX 40, which is owned by the same parent company as the LA Times, The Tribune Company.

The actual hacking was fairly minor — as shown earlier on SFist, and as you can see below, someone went into a story on the front page of the website about a tax cut package in Congress and inserted "CHIPPY 1337," and according to Keys' defense attorney, the vandalism was cleaned up within an hour. Nonetheless, Keys was convicted on counts of conspiracy to cause damage to a protected computer, transmission of malicious code, and attempted transmission of malicious code, and could face up to 25 years in jail — though he's more likely to face less than five years, or simply probation, depending on the leniency of the judge in his sentencing come January.


Keys' case has been taken up by internet activists and foes of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as an example of inappropriate prosecution of a journalist, as Forbes reports, though calling Keys a journalist may be a stretch — he has mostly served as a social media manager for Thomson Reuters and KTXL, though he did write a 2012 story on a Reuters blog about Anonymous and the prosecution of a hacker named Sabu. Says David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, "The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is entirely out of sync with the way people use computers... [and] Today’s conviction of Matthew Keys is yet more evidence that this needs to be fixed."

Critics argue that the punishment prescribed by the CFAA is not commensurate with cases like this, in which the actual damage was very minimal. "With much bluster," Segal says, "the Department of Justice has pointed to the absurd statutory maximal penalty for somebody in Keys’s shoes: 25 years for enabling a harm that entailed changing the words on a website for all of an hour."

It does not seem, though, that there is much argument about the facts of the case and Keys' guilt — the arguments are just about what financial harm the hacking actually caused. As Vice notes, the Tribune Company claimed that the hacking knocked out the mobile version of the LA Times site for a full day, and that the incident caused a total of $929,977.00 in damages, which the defense said was ridiculous.

In any case, Keys was back on Twitter today retweeting all the tweets that have come to his defense, including one from Edward Snowden.

And Keys' response to the verdict was as follows:

All previous coverage of Matthew Keys on SFist.