I recently talked to an Anon known as Echo who is waging a one-hacker battle against lolcow.farm an all-female imageboard designed to harass women and girls. What Echo uncovered in this seedy underbelly of the internet is nothing short of shocking, as is the organizations supporting this. So, I present the story of Echo, the Gen-Z Hacker behind Op Lolcow.farm.
Anonymous Worldwide: Why don’t we start off by telling us a little bit about yourself.
Echo: I’m a student who was first introduced to the world of activism and programming around the age of 12. I always looked up to vigilante groups that were actively doing things to protect people, I secretly wanted to take part at the time, which I eventually ended up doing a few years later when I realised the vast lack of protection of young people online & their data as well as learning about companies and people that actively exploit young people. I felt as if there was a massive hole on the internet and as if my generation had been done a great disservice in what we had to go through online.
AW: Where did you learn how to hack?
Echo: Honestly, it was something I learnt as I went along. I started off with OSINT, and moved on from there, doing research on the things I felt I needed to learn depending on what I was doing at the time.
AW: Where would you say your skills are today?
Echo: I’m not sure, I like to think I’m fairly proficient in the things I’m interested in and spend time on the most. I think a lot of people my age are a lot more knowledgeable in IT than people would assume.
AW: What do you think some of those assumptions about young people are and how are they wrong?
Echo: I believe that a lack of IT skills is a big problem in society. I have heard that the Police are unable to trace No Caller ID phone calls which is extremely pathetic coming from the people who are meant to protect citizens. This lack of technical knowledge also seems applicable to Governments, the FBI, etc…
I think that these people believe they can do it better than people my age, and their stubbornness combined with lack of skills equals a complete lack of support online. If authorities started putting younger people in charge or giving us a chance, I believe we could genuinely change the internet for the better.
AW: In what ways do you think that giving young people more authority would improve the Internet?
Echo: I believe that my generation [Generation Z], although we have many faults, tend to be more equip technically as well as in terms of moral compass, to handle a lot of the current issues that go down online as we grew up around them. We’ve grown up around social media, imageboard & forum culture and understand these things from a perspective that the average, let’s say, Gen X or Baby Boomer wouldn’t understand.
AW: So are you saying you want Gen Z to be feds?
Echo: Not necessarily but I believe we’d do a better job than the current people in positions of power in relation to targeting issues like pedophilia and gang stalking.
AW: How and why did you become a part of Anonymous?
Echo: Anonymous were the group I consistently looked up to as a child. I remember being 10 or 11 and feeling as if I’d finally found a movement that genuinely represented what I believed in. I was a big fan and very much felt as if Anonymous had people’s back in a way that the police and government didn’t. As the years went on and I learnt more and more, eventually I wondered if maybe I could switch from being an outsider to finally being able to call myself an Anon. I joined because Anonymous was the only group that I ever felt had people’s well-being & interests at heart and represented what I truly believed in. I started talking to people in Anonymous chats on various platforms, IRC, Discord, Telegram, etc.… and became involved, made friends, and started working on ops I felt would be beneficial and now can finally call myself an Anon.
AW: Were there any Anons you looked up to or wanted to Emulate? Any Ops that you found inspiring or impressive?
Echo: I looked up to every Anon, but the Ops I found most inspiring were probably the ones relating to targeting pedophiles, harassment, and tech conglomerates. I believe these are the biggest issues with the Internet currently and seeing Ops relating to these things go down was always satisfying.
AW: Ok, let’s move on to the Op we are here to discuss today. How would you describe lolcow.farm?
Echo: A pedophilia and stalking website disguising itself as a freedom of speech and gossip website.
AW: How does lolcow.farm present itself?
Echo: It presents itself as an all-female gossip imageboard that’s freedom of speech friendly & harmless. “If you don’t like it just turn off your computer” kind of vibe.
AW: So I understand that anonymity is one of their rules, so how can they make the claim that it is all female?
Echo: I have absolutely no idea, thinking about it now, it’s pretty amusing. The site owner just said “girls only” and assumed only girls would visit the site. I think she tried to curate the site in a way that she thought would appeal only to girls? It’s really bizarre as it’s not really possible to dictate the genders of users visiting your website. The user-base constantly attack each other when they believe a poster is a man, this happens on the site as well as in the group chats for the site on Matrix & Discord. It’s really strange as there’s no real way of knowing an anonymous poster’s gender.
AW: Are all the subjects on lolcow.farm also female?
Echo: The vast majority are.
AW: Can you describe the origin of the term “lolcow”?
Echo: The idea behind it is that a cow refers to someone who can be “milked” (like a cow) for content, entertainment or giggles, hence the lol part, cows live on a farm hence why the site is called lolcow.farm
AW: What is YOUR relationship to lolcow.farm?
Echo: I, alongside a few friends, were targeted quite badly. I was actually originally targeted for standing up to what they were doing to someone else, which is how I found out about the site in the first place. I think my attitude towards it would be the same even if I hadn’t ended up posted, mainly due to the fact that objectively, if I come across something I believe to be awful and unjust, I try my best to do something about it.
AW: So with regards to lolcow.farm what actions have you taken in order to do something about i?
Echo: I think contacting the companies involved in the site’s infrastructure was the first step. Those companies being:
Namecheap: Domain Register
Abelohost: Hosting Provider
Cloudflare: DDoS protection and anonymising the site’s Whois records
AW: And how did that contact go?
Echo: Honestly? Terrible.
Abelohost didn’t bother responding & took off their live contact option from their own website as soon as they heard about it, which I thought was cowardly. Not sure if they’ve put it back up or not.
Cloudflare are always awful when it comes to these types of things, so I didn’t expect a response from them and mostly received automated responses which I’m guessing a programmed bot sends out for them.
Namecheap at least responded, however, they completely ignored their own terms of service & policies when I highlighted the ones lolcow.farm had violated. They also asked me to send them photographic evidence of child pornography & the children’s IDs to verify that the subjects were underage, which I find repellent as some of them clearly hadn’t even gone through puberty yet which was blatantly obvious. It is not my job to prove the ages of subjects, nor should I have to do such a thing, I am pretty sure there’s a law about posting nudity of people who are not verified to be adults. lolcow.farm has admitted on several occasions to posting cp & hosting nudes of minors. The craziest thing about Namecheap is that they have an anti-nudity policy in general.
AW: Where has lolcow.farm admitted posting cp and nudes of minors?
Echo: On the site itself, people complain about cp being posted in /meta/ and there are several threads on minors or people who were minors at the time where their nudes have been shared.
AW: Have you taken any further actions at this time?
Echo: I went to the FBI & the police. As well as the university of the site owner.
AW: What was the FBI’s and police’s response?
Echo: Still waiting to hear back
AW: So, you mentioned earlier that Cloudflare has anonymized the WHOIS information for the domain registration, how did you discover the owner of the site and her university?
Echo: She accidentally outed herself as the site owner on her social media accounts and I also received tip offs by at least a few of her current/old? Moderation team.
AW: So poor Opsec. What else have you found during this op?
Echo: I just found out that we truly are on our own as citizens and young people. Companies like Cloudflare and the others mentioned, fail to protect young people from stalking, child pornography, and pedophilia. The fact a site like this is still up, proves that all of the government’s and police’s speeches about caring about women, young people, and children were just lies and feeble attempts at looking as if they care without really doing anything to protect us.
AW: What would you like to see happen?
Echo: I would like to see Cloudflare and other neglectful tech companies held accountable for the lives destroyed by sites like lolcow.farm and worse. I’d like to see the government and police stick to their words for once and actually do their jobs in relation to cybercrime. Online crime is neglected and ignored, and people like the owner of lolcow.farm know this when setting up their websites.
AW: What would you like this accountability to look like? What actions would you like to see happen and by who?
Echo: I think accountability would look like seeing the death of sites like lolcow.farm who run on similar concepts, as well as compensation for those affected. Cloudflare & other companies should not be allowed or granted special access to evade the law, they do need to be held accountable in court & hopefully put in prison along with the owners of these websites.
AW: Since Cloudflare is considered an infrastructure provider rather than a hosting provider, they have broad legal immunity when it comes to the content they host and protect. Changes to how the internet is regulated would have to be put in place. Cloudflare insists that they allow these things in the interest of free speech until popular and legal pressure forces their hand, like when 8chan hosted the Christchurch shooter and manifesto. Where do you think the line should be drawn between the Free Flow of Information and protecting those that are vulnerable?
Echo: I believe there’s a difference between freedom of speech and freedom of action. Cloudflare don’t know the difference. The simple solution would be abolishing Section 230 or reforming it to make website owners accountable and disabling anonymous surface website hosting. Laws like the EU GDPR would be helpful in America to ensure that data and privacy of regular average citizens isn’t abused or released without consent.
Freedom of speech is great but wouldn’t work currently. Complete anti-censorship works in situations where no one is censored. But in this situation, it is rigged due to the fact that subjects don’t know who posted their data or who the owner of a website is, that technically ends up censoring what victims can do to obtain justice. Anti-censorship works both ways and if one party is at an advantage then it’s not true freedom or equality.
AW: Thank you, Echo. Do you have any final thoughts to share?
Echo: Sign this petition to take down lolcow.farm & affiliated websites!
And keep notifying Cloudflare, Abelohost & Namecheap about what’s going on until justice is achieved.
So, there you have it, folks. This brave young woman is working to find justice for the harassed, bullied, and exploited women and girls when no one else is doing so against great obstacles designed to keep from holding these people and companies accountable valuing ideals of “free speech” over that of actual real-world harm.
I would urge you to get involved, join Anonymous, run your own ops or join those that are woefully underrepresented and overworked like Operation Lolcow.farm. This is Johnny Fusion for Anonymous Worldwide, signing off… for now.