ferguson mike brown
Police officer standing watch conceals identity as demonstrators protest shooting of teenager Michael BrownScott Olson / Getty Images

The St Louis County police department has strongly denied that the person named by Anonymous is the officer who shot teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

On Thursday, a Twitter account affiliated with the online hacktivist movement Anonymous tweeted the name of the officer it claimed was the person who shot dead 18-year-old Brown last Saturday. Subsequently, the account published a picture of the officer.

The public "doxing" by an Anonymous member followed four days of protests in the small town of Ferguson and what was perceived by many as a heavy-handed approach by the police towards the demonstrators - including the use of tear gas.

Hours after the name was released and widely shared on social media, the St Louis County Police Department said the name of the officer was false and the person in question doesn't even work with the Ferguson or St Louis County police departments.

The police took the unusual step of addressing the Anonymous account directly on Twitter, saying:

Ferguson Police Tweet to Deny Anonymous Claims

Moments after the St Louis County PD sent the tweet, Twitter suspended the account belonging to @TheAnonMessage.

Speaking to the Washington Post, St Louis County Sgt Colby Dolly strongly criticised those looking to identify the police officer at the centre of the incident.

"People really need to harshly judge the accuracy of this group, given that they've now given false information about several important things," he said.

While the St Louis County police chose to repeat the identity of the officer named by Anonymous, IBTimes UK has chosen to omit the person's name in case it leads to any reprisals.

Anonymous Ferguson Dox Backlash

Following the denial by the police, certain other Anonymous-related Twitter accounts voiced their concerns about the release of the information, saying that in IRC conversations which took place earlier on Thursday, up to four separate names had been mentioned as possible officers involved.

According to an Anon who uses the Twitter account @Crypt0nymous, a number of people had warned @TheAnonMessage that it was risky to publish a name when they weren't 100% sure about it.

@Crypt0nymous said: "So, what @TheAnonMessage is doing right now is playing poker with the life of people. And btw. he wasn't sure. It doesn't matter if he is right or wrong at the end. This is not what Anonymous is about."

@Crypt0nymous added that the name published could be right or wrong but nobody is sure.

The main Twitter account associated with the Operation Ferguson campaign has also weighed in to the debate, saying it said earlier that it would not release the officer's name until it was 100% certain it was correct, adding:

"The simple truth is, we'd prefer NOT to have to release the name of Mike Brown's shooter. We would prefer the police do that."

The police have said they will not be releasing the name of the officer involved as they have been the subject of threats since the shooting, adding: "We only release suspect information after the investigation is complete and charges have been issued."