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Steubenville fights online criticism of sexual assault case with its own website

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In the wake of heavy online scrutiny and attacks by Anonymous, the city of Steubenville has launched a website to release what it calls "accurate information" about a pending sexual assault case. In mid-2012, two local teens were arrested after allegedly assaulting a girl while she was incapacitated during a party. As the investigation unfolded, blogger Alexandria Goddard captured and publicized what appear to be tweets describing the attack and pictures of the girl being carried by her alleged attackers. Months later, hackers operating under the banner of Anonymous took up the cause as well, leaking a disturbing and potentially incriminating video of another student apparently joking about the girl's rape.

"People from other states and countries may not be familiar with some basic facts."

Steubenville Facts, run officially by the city of Steubenville and the local police force, is clearly meant to battle Anonymous, Goddard, and leaks site LocalLeaks in the court of public opinion. The site stresses that it's not meant to become a forum for debate; instead it was launched because "people from other states and countries may not be familiar with some basic facts about the background of the case." It contains a timeline, details about the police, lawyers, and attorneys involved in the investigation, and where to find public records; updates are also planned as the case progresses.

From the beginning, the Steubenville case has unfolded both online and offline. Earlier today, Sheriff Fred Abdalla addressed "Occupy Steubenville" protestors, who have gathered at the town in the wake of Anonymous' operation, and the investigation may end up hinging on evidence scraped from the web and from phones that were confiscated after the event. Steubenville's website, meanwhile, could let the town reset a narrative that's so far been mostly hostile to it.