The hacktivist group Anonymous has accessed 9,200 ISIS Twitter account handles and released the list to the public. Using the Twitter hashtag #CtrlSec, hundreds of anonymous members across the world have systematically flagged ISIS accounts beginning last month.
One Anonymous member announced the hack on Medium.com last night, writing:
We’re releasing [the list of accounts] to hold Twitter accountable. I encourage you all to do your duty not only as a citizen of the world but also as a member of the Internet community and re-post this on social media. The more attention it gets the more likely it becomes Twitter takes action in removing these accounts and making a serious impact on the ability of ISIS to spread propaganda and recruit new members. You don’t have to be tech savvy to contribute, simply clicking retweet or like could mean the difference between almost 10 thousand active accounts or 10 thousand suspended ones. Help us fight!
Twitter has already begun cooperating with the movement by systematically confirming and suspending the flagged accounts. ISIS accounts flagged with #CtrlSec began popping up on February 19th, most of which have come from Controlling Section, an account dedicated solely to exposing the terrorists’ accounts.
J.M. Berger, author of ISIS: State of Terror, recently told CBS New York it’s possible for 80 percent of ISIS supporters on Twitter to have their accounts identified and suspended, but doing so could come at a cost.
"These accounts provide a lot of information about what's going on in ISIS territories, and the question is, can you dig into this network and degrade its performance while still maintaining those benefits?” Berger said. “And I think the answer is that you can."
Last month, three girls—aged 15, 15, and 16—ran away from their London homes, flew to Istanbul, and are suspected to have headed to the Syrian border to join ISIS. Unfortunately, this is just one of many recent stories from countries across the world where naïve young people have swallowed the terrorists’ propaganda hook, line, and sinker.
Social media is not the only online platform for terrorists. Al Quada has a digital magazine many suspect acted as the Boston bombers’ guide to bomb building. There have been countless blogs, sites, and social media profiles devoted to promoting terrorist ideals, but Al Qaeda’s Inspire Magazine is the first to combine propaganda with how-to killing guides.
President Obama spoke against these online propaganda machines in the first ever White House summit on Countering Violent Extremism last month:
We have to recognize that our best partners in all these efforts, the best people to help protect individuals from falling victim to extremist ideologies are their own communities, their own family members. We have to be honest with ourselves. Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIL deliberately target their propaganda in the hopes of reaching and brainwashing young Muslims, especially those who may be disillusioned or wrestling with their identity. That’s the truth. The high-quality videos, the online magazines, the use of social media, terrorist Twitter accounts—it’s all designed to target today’s young people online, in cyberspace.
Combating terrorists by exposing their online presence is a great way for civilians to contribute to a safer world. We live in the age when nearly anyone in the world can be contacted with a click of a button, and ISIS has used this privilege as a disturbingly effective recruitment tool. Thankfully, Anonymous has nominated itself as a crusader in this pursuit using Twitter and Facebook as its weapon.
However, the hacktivist group recently took to YouTube to protest Facebook, which allegedly suspended their anti-ISIS account called “CyberBrain” without warning or explanation after the group had accrued over 30,000 followers.
We asked Facebook to give us a reason why they deleted our group. Is it because we're promoting the online war against ISIS, or [because] some government asked them to do so? We thought Facebook is all about freedom of speech, but we were wrong. Facebook has proven to take sides with ISIS, directly or indirectly. Governments and Facebook you should be ashamed of yourself for trying to stop us and what we're doing.
The Daily Beast has contacted Facebook about CyberBrain’s account suspension, and the company responded promptly with the following statement:
In reference to our policies on terrorism, please see our Community Standards: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards. Specifically the section on Dangerous Organizations states:
Dangerous Organizations: What types of organizations we prohibit on Facebook. We don’t allow any organizations that are engaged in the following to have a presence on Facebook:
· Terrorist activity, or
· Organized criminal activity.
We also remove content that expresses support for groups that are involved in the violent or criminal behavior mentioned above. Supporting or praising leaders of those same organizations, or condoning their violent activities, is not allowed.
The Daily Beast is still awaiting the promised second half of Facebook’s reply, which should regard the specific instance regarding CyberBrain. We will update this article as soon as possible.
In the ‘90s, hackers were nerds who dabbled in criminality by pissing off accountants. Today, hacking is the way civilians to fight the most violent and rampant criminal organization on the planet. For the less computer-literate lot of us, the least we can do to fight the good fight is share the Anonymous list to help get ISIS off the web.