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How Anonymous and Other Hacktivists Fight ISIS Online

Anonymous and several offshoot hacktivists groups have been waging war on ISIS in cyberspace, but have they made any difference?

Ever since ISIS started its advance in Syria and Iraq, taking control of large swaths of land, the group distinguished itself from previous terrorist groups for its unprecedented reliance on the internet for propaganda, recruitment, and even some low-level hacking.

After tragic ISIS-inspired attacks in Europe, and seeing that ISIS was using the internet as another battleground of sorts, the hacktivists group Anonymous declared war on the islamic terrorists in 2014.


Since then, hacktivists claiming to be part of Anonymous have flagged alleged ISIS social media accounts and targeted pro-ISIS websites. Splinter groups such as GhostSec and CtrlSec have also gone after ISIS online, claiming to pass information to authorities, and boasting of having disrupted recruitment efforts and even one real-world terrorist attack.

At the same time, factions within Anonymous, whose contours are by definition hard to define, have condemned the hacktivists' collaboration with the authorities. Some within the government, or former government employees, have embraced their activities.

"You need a network to fight a network. You need a swarm to fight a swarm," said Alberto Fernandez, a former employee at the US State Department and one of the creators of the controversial and much-maligned American counter-propaganda effort Think Again, Turn Away.

But for all this drama, what has Anonymous, and its offshoot hacktivist groups really achieved? Last year, it seemed the hacktivists had little to show for it. A year later, it's still an open question.

We looked at what hacktivists have been doing against ISIS in the last couple of years for this week's CYBERWAR episode. You can watch it on VICELAND on Tuesday, at 10:30 PM ET/PT. As an appetizer, read some of Motherboard's past stories about Anonymous and ISIS online activities.

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