Whether you call them ISIS, or ISIL, or IS, or the Islamic State, or Da’esh, whenever one thinks of modern terrorism, it’s more than likely that you also think of social media. Social media is one of the ISIS terrorist group’s primary components, something that even President Obama this weekend while in Malaysia.
“[ISIS is] a bunch of killers with good social media. They are dangerous and they’ve caused great hardship to an overwhelming majority of people.”
The aftermath of the Paris murders.
[Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images][/caption]
After the attacks in Paris, Twitter was the channel through which ISIS laid claim to committing the murders. However, despite being aware of ISIS’ use of social media for communications not only between the group and the world at large, but also between ISIS members themselves within the group, FBI Director James Comey said last Thursday that there has been little success in cutting off ISIS’ use of social media.
“Our job is to find needles in a nationwide haystack, needles that are increasingly invisible to us because of end-to-end encryption. This is the ‘going dark’ problem in high definition.”
FBI Director Comey was speaking to yet another way in which ISIS uses social media: domestic recruitment. ISIS has become adept at recruiting Muslim extremists into their organization, enabling them to obtain operatives that are already based in the countries they intend to target with their terrorism.
It might be interesting to note that despite how negative FBI Director Comey is about tracking down ISIS over the internet, the activist hacker group called Anonymous seems to have had quite a bit of success in attacking ISIS online in the past few weeks.
On the day following the Paris attacks, Anonymous declared war on ISIS. The activist group released a video declaring their intentions. “War is declared. Get prepared. We are coming.”
Only one day later, Anonymous Tweeted that they’d shut down over 3,800 Twitter accounts associated with ISIS. That number jumped to over 5,500 ISIS accounts a few days later. Though the claims might seem incredible, their validity seemed to be increased when Anonymous later posted a communique dispersed to ISIS members indicating how they should be wary of Anonymous and to stop using various social networks as they weren’t secure.
Anonymous made the ISIS communique public on its Twitter feed and laughed off the attempts of the terrorist group to avoid them. One of Anonymous’ slogans is, “We own the internet.”
The latest news regarding ISIS and Anonymous is that Anonymous intercepted a plethora of information indicating that attacks would be mounted worldwide today in France, the United States, Italy, and others. Anonymous claims to have given the information to government authorities and sat back, appalled at the lack of information being made available to the public by their governments. As such, yesterday, Anonymous made the information public.
These claims of successes against ISIS on the internet by Anonymous makes one wonder if government anti-terrorism units are either not as good as Anonymous, or if statements about how difficult it is to wage war with ISIS on the internet are just a red herring.
According to Foreign Policy magazine, in the last nine months, hacking activists have taken down over 149 websites linked to ISIS and have “flagged” over 101,000 Twitter accounts and 5,900 ISIS propaganda videos.
The war on terror is a 21st Century war, which makes one wonder if a worldwide network of 21st Century hacktivists will have a better shot at curbing terrorism than soldiers using 20th Century techniques. ISIS is a worldwide operation, which means that communication between its members is key. In the 21st Century, communication is critically linked to the internet. Eliminate a group’s ability to communicate, and you isolate ISIS.
[Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images]