I’m Mary Snap and I Tracked Mike Norton (NewNameNoah) at the LDS Church
Hi, my name’s Mary Snap. Well, my name’s not really Mary Snap but that’s the fake Facebook profile I created back in 2012 when I worked for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church, or “The Mormons”). While there we discovered a guy by the pseudonym, “NewNameNoah”, had been sharing videos he had recorded with a hidden camera inside the LDS Temple, and claimed to have video of Mitt Romney in the temple he was going to expose during Mitt Romney’s campaign. It had become known, after I helped the information security group at the church to combat people spamming Mormon.org chat with questions about magnets (long story), that I was knowledgable in helping combat nuisances like NewNameNoah so they asked me to help. Honestly, I still have many friends there and I hope this 5 year old story doesn’t jeopardize any of that. I just feel it’s a fascinating story! Here’s one of his first videos (warning — this will be offensive to many Mormons!):
From that point forward for about 6 months I was employed to track him and figure out who he was. As you can see, his initial videos didn’t have any identifiable information in them. They were by some guy named “NewNameNoah”, and included a salamander at the end and initials of several people. I wanted to figure out a) who this guy was, b) what was the Salamander significance, and c) what did the initials mean at the end? So I went to work.
I started by joining just about every Ex-Mormon community on the web, creating fake accounts on each to be able to search and track what was within. Honestly, this started some of my own questioning about the LDS Church. You can learn about that here. At the same time I started Googling “newnamenoah”, and was able to come up with multiple forum posts from this pseudonym, and eventually found one by a guy with the name of Mike Norton, identifying himself as NewNameNoah. Bingo!
So I immediately looked him up on Facebook. His Facebook profile was private, and I didn’t want to give away that some random dude that worked at the Church was friending him, so I looked over all of his posts that *were* public, and started looking at things like people that were commenting on his posts, liking his posts, and sharing his posts. On their profiles there was more information about Mike. Before I knew it, I knew almost everyone in his family, where he lived, close friends, ex-wives, and more. Oh, and from all this information I identified all but I think 1 set of initials at the end of the video (mostly family members of his), and from a post and an appearance he made on a tattoo reality TV show (I’m too lazy to look up the name), I discovered the meaning of the Salamander tattoo at the end of the video as well.
From here we were able to identify a bit more information, and I created the fake Facebook profile, “Mary Snap”. With this profile I started friending people that had liked and shared Mike’s posts so we’d have common friends. I started posting “anti-Mormon” (I hate that term — it’s derogatory no more than calling Mormonism “a cult” is) quotes and pictures. And I started to build a friends list. I joined all the ex and post-Mormon Facebook groups I could with this fake profile. As a girl profile, guys started randomly friending the profile as well. It was sorta weird and I gained a new appreciation for what a lot of girls go through on Facebook! It even had a birthday, and to this day I still get birthday wishes on the profile from people that think it’s real even though it hasn’t posted anything in years!
Before I knew it I had a legitimate-looking Facebook profile, so I sent Mike a request. He accepted! I started commenting and liking his posts to start building a relationship with him so he’d trust the profile.
Before I knew it, I was invited into secret groups by Mike and people supporting Mike, discussing the release of new videos, where he was planning to go next (a little side note — there were also active members that were in these groups with fake profiles reporting things to us — they did not know I had a fake profile in there already). I reported every one of these, screenshot after screenshot to higher ups at the COB (Church Office Building). We looked up Mike’s address through public records. We looked up his old membership records to find out details on his membership status and when he left the Church. I found secret Youtube channels of his we were capturing and downloading every video that was released. I was, yes, being paid to stalk Mike Norton in order to be able to know how to react if a video about Mitt Romney in the temple was released.
I had his Youtube and Facebook accounts removed multiple times by our account reps at the Church. For some reason they kept coming back online through Mike’s efforts. Yeah, I was the one doing that. It was amusing at the time to see it taken down and to see Mike react at the time on his private profiles.
Mike started bragging about his Mitt Romney video, and at one point I seem to remember in one of the private groups he even shared either a screenshot, or actual video snippets of Mitt Romney. Whatever it was, it was credible enough to know he had something, and he was talking to New York Times and other reporters about releasing this footage to both ruin the Romney campaign, as well as hurt the LDS Church’s image. He gave a date this was going to be released in several private groups, and started to confirm this more publicly later on (remember “October surprise”?)
In about 2 days and me reporting to Mike Otterson (the Managing Director of Public Affairs and spokesman for the Church), members of the 70 and others, the LDS Church produced their most revealing video yet, showing garments and talking about the importance of religious garb. We had it all ready to release in the event Mike went live with the video. We knew he wanted attention and was willing to go to jail to get that attention so we didn’t want to give the attention he wanted unless he had already gotten it via other means.
Well, by the date of the “October Surprise”, Mike never released the video. I’m pretty sure his lawyers told him the Church would have sued him out of existence if he did. And frankly they probably would have. And the Church didn’t release that video for another year or two. But they did release it eventually on Mormon Channel and elsewhere. You can watch it below from the Mormon Newsroom Youtube channel:
Why am I sharing this? I’m sharing this to make the point that the LDS Church, while trying to protect its own existence and the security of its members and leaders, *does* track certain members. I never once heard the term “Strengthening the Members Committee” when I was there. Everything I did was to try and protect the Church’s image and the security of its members. I was also told they don’t necessarily condone the creation of fake profiles like I do, but they never told me to stop when I said I was doing it. I was a small cog in a much larger machine built to protect the image of the Church, just doing my job. They appreciated the information I was giving them, and was helping them with.
I don’t share this to hurt the Church in any way, but I do think it’s important for others to know that the LDS Church *does* track security threats, and they have some of the most talented individuals in the world working for them to do so. So even if you’re in a private or secret group, always remember there are likely people watching, either from the COB, or members going rogue and trying to report it to the COB.
Now that I’ve exposed Mary — go ahead and friend her or follow her — I made her profile public. Do you have any common friends right now with her? You might want to be careful who you friend moving forward. :-)
Oh, and the name “Snap”? It stands for the old name for my social media agency :-)
Now go watch Mike Norton live on MormonStories.org live tomorrow! I’ll be in the audience reflecting on this adventure.