Anonymous has struck again in its fight against ISIS, with the online collective releasing names of people suspected of recruiting in Europe for the terrorist group.
This week the online activist group declared war on ISIS, vowing to expose the militant group’s online presence and engage in a series of cyber attacks. On Wednesday the group seemingly followed through, releasing a list of suspected extremists that included their identities and physical addresses.
The names were not released publicly, but instead shared with the British publication the Independent.
“The activist collective is assembling lists of the Twitter accounts and websites of extremists, in an attempt to have them taken down,” the report noted. “At least one post seen by The Independent contains details including the physical address of a person it says is an ISIS recruiter in Europe.”
But as Anonymous takes aim at ISIS, there are already allegations that the online activist network is misfiring at some of its targets. Some people who are not affiliated with ISIS appear to be among those identified as members of the group, the Independent noted.
— CNBC (@CNBC) November 19, 2015
Anonymous has struggled in the past with verifying information it releases, often misidentifying targets. In one recent high-profile case, the group released a list that allegedly showed names of Klu Klux Klan members, but the list contained many names that did not appear to be genuine. People connected to the group also misidentified the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown last year.
The very nature of Anonymous makes it difficult to verify some claims. Though members often coordinate online to set strategies for their operations, there is no central structure to the group and anyone can make claims on its behalf.
But even with its disjointed nature and questionable results, Anonymous has been able to make gains against ISIS. On Wednesday, the group announced that more than 6,080 ISIS Twitter accounts were disabled due to their efforts.
— Natalie DiBlasio (@ndiblasio) November 19, 2015
The sheer numbers of those working with Anonymous against ISIS and the skills of those involved make it a formidable opponent, noted Veryan Khan, editorial director with the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, a private firm that collects information on terrorism.
“Hunting groups are volunteer cyber militias,” she told USA Today. These Anonymous members “like to play Whack-a-Mole, their funnest thing in the whole world is to go in and take these groups down.”
Anonymous has been fighting against Islamist extremists for close to one year, starting with the attack against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January. The group officially declared war on ISIS following Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead.
The group has caught the attention of ISIS, which called Anonymous “idiots” on the messaging service Telegram. The two groups also engaged in a bit of back-and-forth online on Wednesday, the USA Today noted.
“Anonymous has, in turn, posted guides giving readers instructions on how to hack into IS-affiliated systems.
“Supporters of the Islamic State have posted their own guide detailing how to work around hactivist [sic] efforts to shut down its social media work, in Arabic.
“While no online vigilante group can entirely block something as amorphous as IS, it can slow down the efforts of terrorist groups targeting young people for recruitment through social media and the Internet.”
Telegram, which offers users a private messaging service, reportedly blocked 78 ISIS-related channels.
The attacks from Anonymous could be an important strategy for fighting ISIS, which relies heavily on social media to communicate with the world and to recruit new members. The terrorist group is incredibly technology savvy, and even employs professional film and editing equipment for its execution videos, which are ready-made to share to the internet.
[AP Photo/Luis Romero]