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Hackers target Westboro Baptist after they announce Newtown protest

Protests on Veterans Day

(CNN) – Hacktivist group Anonymous published what it claims to be personal information of members of the Westboro Baptist Church after the group announced on Saturday it would picket Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 children and adults were killed.

Anonymous published private e-mail addresses, phone numbers and home addresses of various members, and teased the group about the hack on Twitter. Anonymous also posted a videocondemning the group for “breeding hatred” and adding, “We will destroy you. We are coming.”

The Westboro group holds protests at military funerals, and targets various cultures and demographics, particularly gay people. The group blames them for tragedies such as shootings, saying it’s God’s punishment for their actions.

The Westboro Baptist Church has previously been warned by Anonymous, who in February 2011 told the group to “Cease and desist” its protest campaign in 2011, or face damage to its website. “The damage incurred will be irreversible, and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover,” Anonymous wrote.

And the group may be forced to stop picketing if several new petitions gain enough momentum.

Two White House petitions, both published on Friday, aim to classify the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group. “Legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group” has more than 72,000 signatures, while another called “Define the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group due to promoting animosity against differing cultural demographics” clocks in at 17,000 signatures.

Petitions that gain 25,000 signatures by Jan. 13, 2013 will be viewed by the Obama Administration, and a response will be issued.

The American Bar Association defines hate speech as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.”

Do you think the Westboro Baptist Church is exercising its right to free speech, or does this classify as hate speech? Tell us in the comments.

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