Sunday, November 29, 2015

Anonymous' cyberwar on ISIS

Isis has recently stated that it would fight against ISIS after the Paris attacks. Since then the collective has claimed that it has helped taking down a multitude of Twitter accounts.After having the discussion concerning the recent attacks on Paris in November this blog post focuses on the question whether the efforts of social media activist groups against ISIS is useful or not.

Anonymous activist declaring war on ISIS in a video message which went viral
(source: Reuters)

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Several social media activists such as the famous collective Anonymous have declared a cyberwar on ISIS. By applying a keyword search tactic activists aim to identify and report ISIS supporters in order to disrupt their online recruitment process on social media platforms such as Twitter. Anonymous has branded its actions by using the hashtags #OPPparis and #OPISIS. In addition, Anonymous has also released a detailed how-to list in order for supporters to help take ISIS off the internet. Hence, Anonymous offers a tool that identifies certain keywords and reports ISIS supportive behavior to Twitter. It is then up to Twitter to check the report and decide whether to take the reported account offline or not. As of today more than 25,000 accounts have been taken down with the help of Anonymous as the hacker collective has claimed.
 This movement has been regarded both positively and critically by experts. On the one hand, by applying the keyword search tactics, the cyber activist risks to eliminate Twitter accounts of persons who are not supportive, but rather following ISIS in order to conduct research or for intelligence purposes. Hence, news organizations and journalists have been affected by the movement. On the other hand, every action that could possibly weaken the ISIS online presence and the process of spreading propaganda and recruiting new supporters is regarded to be useful.
With regards to the latest actions the State Department and the Department of Defense have not commented on the movement started by various hackers. Though the State Department stated the following: “We are always tracking and evaluating technological changes in the radicalization messaging space, and are continually working to amplify and empower credible third parties to counter ISIL’s messages.“
 Finally, once taken down, members and supporters of ISIS can create a new account, but the movement clearly shows that society does not tolerate ISIS and is trying to hold against their growth.  As Social Media can be a powerful tool on both sides, in order to be effective users should really get information on the accounts  they want to report to Twitter in order to avoid shutting down innocent users. This seems to be almost impossible considering the multitude of Twitter accounts (over 46,000 between September and December, 2014) but it considered to be a symbol of different groups uniting against ISIS on Twitter. 


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