One of the key issues the West has had to face in countering Islamic State (IS) is the jihadi group’s mastery of online propaganda, seen in hundreds of thousands of messages celebrating the atrocities against civilians and spreading the message of radicalisation. It seems clear that efforts to counter IS online are missing the mark.
A US internal State Department assessment noted in June 2015 how the violent narrative of IS had “trumped” the efforts of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced nations. Meanwhile in Europe, Interpol was to track and take down social media accounts linked to IS, as if that would solve the problem – when in fact doing so meant potentially missing out on intelligence gathering opportunities.
Into this vacuum has stepped Anonymous, a fragmented loose network of hacktivists that has for years launched occasional cyberattacks against government, corporate and civil society organisations. The group announced its intention to take on IS and its propaganda online, using its networks to crowd-source the identity of IS-linked accounts. Under the banner of #OpIsis and #OpParis, Anonymous published lists of thousands of Twitter accounts claimed to belong to IS members or sympathisers, claiming more than 5,500 had been removed.
The group pursued a similar approach following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015, with @OpCharlieHebdo taking down more than 200 jihadist Twitter acounts, bringing down the website Ansar-Alhaqq.net and publishing a list of 25,000 accounts alongside a guide on how to locate pro-IS material online….
Anonymous has been prosecuted for cyber attacks in many countries under cybercrime laws, as their activities are not seen as legitimate protest. It is worth mentioning the ethical debate around hacktivism, as some see cyber attacks that take down accounts or websites as infringing on others’ freedom of expression, while others argue that hacktivism should instead create technologies to circumvent censorship, enable digital equality and open access to information….(More)”