Barrett Brown, the activist and journalist known best for his work with anonymous, was recently released from jail after serving a brutal 4-year sentence. During that time he spent at least 6 months in solitary confinement, and now that he is released, he still faces 6 months of house arrest and will owe over $800 thousand in restitution fees.
Brown was a controversial figure who became a target for federal law enforcement due to his support of anonymous and his aggressive style of activism and journalism.
During his trial, Brown had a long list of charges stacked against him and was facing over 100 years in prison. Ultimately, the charge that actually stuck was a hacking charge that was related to Brown copying and pasting a link to already hacked Wikileaks material into a chat room for other activists and journalists to research. He did not actually carry out the hack in question, nor is he accused of doing so. He was simply accused of placing a link in a chat room and sharing information about an important leak, something that any serious journalist at the time should have been doing.
Brown was ultimately convicted for the crime of being a real journalist who was not afraid to expose the secrets and crimes of those in power. For generations, the establishment has had the media so tightly controlled to the point where pre-approved journalists are the only ones allowed to ask pre-approved questions of those in power, and anyone who prints anything critical of an authority figure or advertiser is sure to see their career crash and burn.
With the proliferation of internet activism, a new breed of journalists have threatened to upset the existing order, and as a result, they have become targets for character assassination and imprisonment. The case of Barrett Brown is a prime example of this development.
The time that Brown spent in prison did not weaken his dedication to fighting against the establishment.
“I’m very much in favor of further leaks and hacks against select targets, those institutions we believe are engaging in crimes with the complicity of our government,” Brown recently said.
Brown’s story is told in a new mini-documentary called “Relatively Free,” which shows his release from prison and travel to a halfway house where he was ordered to stay after his release.
It is worth mentioning that this film was produced by Alex Winter, the actor and director who starred in the classic comedy “Bill and Ted.” Winter has recently been focusing on creating films to raise awareness about free speech, privacy rights and the battle for the internet.
Last year, Winter released a film called “Deep Web” which chronicled the story of Ross Ulbricht, the man who is facing life in prison for operating the “Silk Road” website.
In his recent TED talk, he discussed his documentary and the Silk Road trial, and about how the freedom of anonymity on the internet affects everyone.