Anonymous and ISIS engaged in bitter cyber warfare

21 Jul 2015

The internet is now a war zone between the collection of hackers known as Anonymous and ISIS (Islamic State) sympathisers on social media.

While Anonymous and ISIS have been engaged in attacks on a personal level before, it now appears that Anonymous’ biggest weapon in the cyber fight is, strangely, Japanese anime.

According to the BBC, Anonymous is flooding ISIS-supporting Twitter profiles with pictures of characters dressed in the Japanese animation style in an effort to alter how ISIS search results are shown on Google.

So far, Anonymous says it has targeted 750 Twitter accounts that have 10,000 followers or more as well as smaller accounts that are very active in promoting ISIS’s beliefs.

A report released earlier this year in March claimed that ISIS had substantial support on Twitter with 46,000 accounts believed to be tweeting ISIS propaganda regularly over a four-month period.

Need to provide new narratives for ISIS followers

It’s still not exactly clear how much of an effect Anonymous’ trolling efforts are having on the organisation, but it’s certainly more than national efforts to curb the spread of ISIS propaganda online, but governments of countries like the UK are beginning to ramp up their efforts in the face of increasing influence in their countries.

Speaking to the BBC, senior fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue Rashad Ali said of Anonymous’ influence: “Practically speaking, you are getting rid of a whole host of people from the public domain, however, it’s not a solution because what we now need to do is not just take down accounts but actually provide new narratives for people. This is where we are failing. We have not had a strong, thought-out counter-argument to IS’s message.”

However, Twitter has confirmed in the past that it is regularly working to delete accounts linked to the promotion of terrorism or extreme ideals, like the ones supported by ISIS, which are believed to number in the thousands.

ISIS online image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic