Cyber D-Day: Anonymous Exposes 9,200 Pro-ISIS Twitter Accounts

In what hacktivists are claiming is one of the biggest collaborations and broadly effective operations in digital history, Anonymous has joined forces with Ghostsec and Ctrlsec to expose 9,200 Twitter accounts they allege are sympathetic to ISIS’s Cyber Caliphate. An Anonymous activist told International Business Times,

“The outcome of hundreds of hackers across all three major groups is the largest compiled and verified list ever to be released to the public.”

Anonymous says the purpose of exposing the list is to pressure Twitter to remove the accounts. Due to the sheer volume of ISIS’s presence on Twitter, it may be difficult for the company to keep up with them. Anonymous aims to make it easier. Twitter’s official policy is to block any account that posts images of or support for violence, such as videos of murdered hostages, which pro-ISIS accounts often post.

Anonymous posted a call to action, in an attempt to create a swarm sharing the list, to build the pressure on Twitter.

“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!”

Anonymous exposed nearly 900 ISIS Twitter accounts in January, shortly after the collective declared #OpISIS following the Charlie Hebdo attack. It discussed then, how ISIS was using a “hydra-like” system to continuously regenerate new Twitter accounts when old ones were suspended. ISIS has also put its own pressure on Twitter. ISIS has posted death threats against Twitter’s founder, Jack Dorsey, on the internet, in response to Twitter removing ISIS accounts.

Anonymous and its hacktivist allies are clearly filling an important void. ISIS’s social media presence is prolific, and its propaganda output online is astounding. Officials have estimated that pro-ISIS accounts post 90,000 social media messages a day. An analysis of its social media strategy by defense experts concluded that ISIS understands the potential of social media as a strategic messaging platform far better than most governments. In the early days of ISIS’s rapid spread through Iraq and Syria, the US and allied governments were blindsided by ISIS’s messaging successes. While the anvil of the Kurdish peshmerga and the Iraqi army and the hammer of US airstrikes may eventually drive ISIS from its strongholds, it clearly has built an unchecked empire online. It must be fought and defeated online. A recent Foreign Policy article suggested that the US government should start paying Anonymous in Bitcoin (which wouldn’t compromise the hacktivists’ anonymity) to fight ISIS.

“If the United States is struggling to counter the Islamic State’s dispersed, rapidly regenerative online presence, why not turn to groups native to this digital habitat? Why not embrace the efforts of third-party hackers like Anonymous to dismantle the Islamic State — and even give them the resources to do so?”

If this were already happening, would we know? Even if the government doesn’t support Anonymous, the Guy Fawkes mask wearing cyber army claiming to hail from all faiths, nations and backgrounds is taking the fight to ISIS well enough on its own, telling them: “You will be treated like a virus; and we are the cure.”

Feature image via Flickr.

Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master's degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.