I’m pretty sure, I’m not into conspiracy theories, but then again maybe a dark force is making me believe that. Consider the phrase “Intenet Troll.” You either think the hero of free speech exposing the truth or a dangerous force destabilizing society as we know it.
George Russell’s documentary Troll Inc. tells the story of one of the internet’s most infamous trolls, Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer. Convicted of identity fraud and hacking (both federal crimes), Auernheimer essentially found ways to use mob psychology and uncover gaping holes in internet security of big business, the news media, and government.
The joy of watching Troll Inc. is Auernheimer’s fascinating story. Along with his contemporaries, Auernheimer’s sole mission was to poke the eye of self-important organizations and people, who take themselves way too seriously. But at a more insidious level than someone yelling “Baba-Booey” on a live shot or a news anchor saying “Mike Hunt” during a newscast.
“…to poke the eye of self-important organizations and people, who take themselves way too seriously.”
Auernheimer’s starts with his website Encyclopedia Dramatica who published an “offensive” article about the Australian Aborigines. The Australian Government went on the attack and proposed to install internet filters to restrict what they deemed as offensive websites, like porn, but it also included site they did not politically agree. Hoping to change the nation’s mind, Auernheimer sneaks onto Australian news posing as a talking-head expert and then utilizes his crew to conduct one-sided polling techniques on the Australian public to successfully manipulate its opinion against internet filters.
Mischief is the best way to describe Auernheimer’s antics. His motivation is not stealing millions from the elite, but more for the coolness factor of fucking around with the self-important. The film details how he discovered a flaw in Amazon’s site search engine programming that allowed him to remove all gay-themed books from search results. He then alerted the media that Amazon was censoring the homosexual community creating a PR nightmare for the giant (look it up).
He then went on to bigger targets specifically AT&T’s exclusive partnership with Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Auernheimer used “SQL Injection” techniques to obtain and leak the email addresses of all iPad users, which included celebrities and member of the military and government worldwide. It was this “attack” that got him on the radar of the FBI and ultimately lead to arrest, conviction, and sentence of 41 months in federal prison.
“…addresses broader societal issues of internet privacy, ‘fake news,’ and internet mob mentality.”
Technically, Auernheimer never broke into or “hacked” Amazon or AT&T. He just took advantage of a flaw in its coding and obtained sensitive customer information. Think of it as taking a wallet left out in the open. Is that stealing?
Troll Inc. address more than just these three incidences. It addresses broader societal issues of internet privacy, “fake news,” and internet mob mentality. A single post or tweet can send crowds into hysteria. Mob outrage starts from a phony story or headline that we share and retweet to followers and friends.
Auernheimer can be called a hacker or prankster. His adversaries consider him a dangerous subversive or at least that’s what the internet says. Troll Inc. does a seemingly fair job presenting the facts alongside interviews with Auerheimer himself, a few of his peers, and internet experts. Director Russell chooses not to give much attention to Auernheimer’s harshest critics. It’s meant to explain his psychology for doing what he did and why.
Troll, Inc. (2018) Directed by George Russell. Starring Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer.
4 out of 5 stars