The pseudonymous 41-year-old, who runs his own construction company, is one of dozens of volunteer “hunters” to dedicate hours each day trying to identify and infiltrate terror groups online and block the spread of their propaganda.
“We’re trying to save lives and get this crap off the net to keep the next vulnerable kid from seeing propaganda and thinking it’s cool,” said Kurtz.
These hunters plug a gap in social media companies’ ability to keep terrorists off their networks by obsessively tracking and reporting Isis’s most prominent recruiters and propagandists across private messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp and public networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Some of them also provide valuable tip-offs of credible threats to law enforcement.
This type of hunting originated in 2014, when hacktivist collective Anonymous declared “war” on Islamic State with the #OpIsis campaign. The loosely affiliated army of digital activists set out to expose and report Isis supporters on social media, and hack or take down their websites.
Kurtz became a hunter following the November 2015 Paris attack. He had been watching the France-Germany friendly football match online when it was disrupted by loud explosions. That day seven attackers carried out mass shootings and suicide bombings that killed 129 people in France’s capital.
After writing an angry Facebook post about the attack, Kurtz was contacted by a friend and member of Anonymous asking if he’d like to help out with #OpIsis. “It took me a few days to figure things out and after a few weeks I was dropping accounts like flies,” he said.
Out of Anonymous’ #OpIsis there have emerged more considered, organized groups including Ghost Security Group, KDK and a “drama and ego-free” group that Kurtz formed in 2016 after getting tired of the Islamophobia and inaccuracy within the operation…(More).