Hack Hack Hack Hack It Apart

The Checkered Online Past of Matthew Keys, the Reuters Social Media Editor Indicted for Hacking

"I am fine. I found out the same way most of you did: From Twitter. Tonight I'm going to take a break. Tomorrow, business as usual."
Mr. Keys (Photo: Twitter)

Mr. Keys (Photo: Twitter)

Matthew Keys, the 26-year-old social media editor at Reuters who was indicted by the Department of Justice yesterday for collaborating with the hacktivist collective Anonymous, has been suspended from Reuters with pay. Now, reporters are working to cobble together details of his checkered online past.

BuzzFeed reports that along with building a dedicated Twitter following of over 20,000 people and creating popular Twitter parody accounts like PendingLarry, Mr. Keys established himself in the early aughts as an infamous LiveJournal troll, who went by several usernames, the most popular being “madrigalskylark.” His presence on the online diary site was so well-known that it warranted its own entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, a Wikipedia-type platform that chronicles the goings-on of 4chan and hacker culture.

Madrigalskylark’s entry reads:

Obsessive LiveJournal user madrigalskylark is known for his attention whore antics, leaving phony suicide notes, passive-aggressive bitchiness, and use of the victim role to earn sympathy from naive, unsuspecting morons. Or gluttons for punishment, depending on how you look at it.

BuzzFeed also links to a fully fleshed out Wikipedia page that user edit history indicates Mr. Keys wrote about himself. The page chronicles everything from the details of his early childhood (he split time between Vacaville, CA, Germany and El Paso, TX) and his past relationships. (“In May 2006, Matthew began dating ‘Jeffrey’ from the Sacramento area. In early July, Matthew broke up with ‘Jeffrey’ after discovering ‘Jeffrey’ was cheating and moving to Los Angeles. Matthew is currently single.”)

The entry also contains a detailed trivia section with gems such as, “In high school, Matthew was known as ‘The Guy Who Likes John Mayer'” and the factoid that he previously maintained “eight LiveJournal accounts, five Xanga accounts and three Blogger accounts.”

“Once again, loser gay boys with way too much time on their hands are discussing me on LiveJournal,” reads one of the quotes on Mr. Keys’ self-built Wikipedia page. The page also states that Mr. Keys “may have had the first ides of a social networking website on the Internet similar to MySpace.”

On a post about Mr. Keys on Gizmodo, commenters chimed in to share their experiences with him. A handful claimed that when they turned Mr. Keys down for romantic relationships, he would create “defamatory (and 90% falsified) websites” or Craigslist postings about them. One commenter wrote on Gawker:

He would make life hell for people who refused to date him. He would stalk and use his tenuous grasp of early social networking to create shitty websites and Craigslist posts full of lies and material created to defame people he didn’t like.

He did this to me, he kept trying to get me to go out with him. I refused. Instead of attacking me he went after one of my friends (who he thought was my Boyfriend). He posted fake profiles on dating sights, and posts on Craigslist with his image, with copy that stated that he had herpes, HIV and other diseases.

He would go online and impersonate him, furthering these lies. This got so bad that my friend left the state, his job, and all of his friends almost over night. Everywhere he went people would come up and ask him if he was “that guy form the Craigslist posts” or “the herpes dude”. My friend was one of several people that Matthew did this to. Most of them were targeted because they refused to date him, still there were others that he attacked for reasons unknown to me.

Another Gawker commenter wrote that when he asked Mr. Keys to stop talking to him, “he tried to blackmail me with (what he thought were) nude pics of me. Threatened to send them to all of my coworkers, all of my Facebook friends, etc.”

Despite his alleged involvement with Anonymous, Mr. Keys actively leaked information to websites like Gawker about the goings-on in hacker IRC rooms. He also used the information gleaned from his conversations with Anonymous members to inform reporting he did for Reuters.

Sabu, the LulzSec hacker turned FBI informant, tweeted about Mr. Keys back in March 2011, but the tweet flew under the press radar. The AP reports that one day after it was announced that Sabu was an FBI informant, Mr. Keys wrote a story for Reuters about how he had “infiltrated” the hacker group. It’s unclear whether this is a coincidence, or if Mr. Keys believed Sabu would snitch on him and made an attempt to cover his tracks by publicly claim to have infiltrated Anonymous instead of copping to collaborating with them.

An anonymous source told Betabeat that Mr. Keys said the day before news of the indictment broke that he was worried he would be fired. Mr. Keys has since claimed on Twitter that statement was unrelated to the indictment.

The AP reports that the former KTXL Fox 40 producer, who allegedly shared login credentials with members of Anonymous so that they could deface articles on the Los Angeles Times website, is scheduled for arraignment in Sacramento on April 12th. “Reuters spokesman David Girardin said the company was ‘aware’ of the indictment when Keys was hired last year, but he declined further comment,” wrote the AP. The story has since been altered to reflect the official Reuters statement:

“We are aware of the charges brought by the Department of Justice against Matthew Keys, an employee of our news organization. Thomson Reuters is committed to obeying the rules and regulations in every jurisdiction in which it operates. Any legal violations, or failures to comply with the company’s own strict set of principles and standards, can result in disciplinary action. We would also observe the indictment alleges the conduct occurred in December 2010; Mr. Keys joined Reuters in 2012, and while investigations continue we will have no further comment.”

Mr. Keys claimed to have found out about the indictment on Twitter. Shortly after news broke of the indictment, Mr. Keys tweeted the following:

A Reuters employee told Reuters (yup) that Mr. Keys’ work station was being dismantled and his security key card had been deactivated.

The Ventura, California based law firm Jay Leiderman announced on Twitter that they plan to represent Mr. Keys. “We fight the man for you,” reads the firm’s Twitter bio.

Update: A tipster who spoke under condition of anonymity provided Betabeat with the following screenshots from Mr. Keys’ Facebook profile. Since news broke of his indictment last night, he’s addressed the issue twice on his page:

Screen shot 2013-03-15 at 1.38.25 PM

The first post, published shortly after news of the indictment broke on Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-03-15 at 1.35.53 PM

The second post, shows Mr. Keys taking issue with (or making a joke about) a sentence in an AP story about him.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com