Inside Anonymous’ Messy Cyberwar Against ISIS

The Saturday morningFOLLOWING THE deadly terrorists attacks in Paris, the hacktivist network Anonymous declared war on ISIS. In a widely distributed video, a figure in a Guy Fawkes mask announced Operation Paris, or #OpParis, and promised the Islamist group that “Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down.”

So far, Anonymous’ much-hyped digital war has generated lots of headlines but not much in the way of impressive results. It’s been mostly focused on identifying ISIS-affiliated websites, TwitterACCOUNTS, and internet addresses and reporting them to Twitter and other webmasters in an effort to get them shut down. Shortly after OpParis launched, Anonymous claimed to have helped get 5,500 ISIS Twitter accounts taken down, a number that ballooned to 20,000 by last Friday. An unnamed Twitter spokesperson told the Daily Dot that Anonymous’s claims are “wildly inaccurate.”

“InTERMS of effectiveness, I think all they can do is make a small dent,” saysGabriella Coleman, an anthropologist and the author of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. “Since they started, ISIS’s online presence hasn’t really shrunk or grown. It doesn’t really matter if there is a small dent. ISIS, unlike Al Qaeda, has been really savvy with online propaganda.” Last week, ISIS posted a message on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, calling the hacktivists “idiots” and offered an onlineSECURITY guide for their sympathizers. Noting that Anonymous had only gone after Twitter accounts, the message joked, “What they gonna hack?”


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