Anonymous – can they actually make a difference?

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They have vowed to hunt down and punish the Islamic State (IS) terrorists responsible for the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 129 people in an online “war”.

Anonymous — the loose, unidentified collective of volunteer computer hackers or hacktivists — claimed it has already taken down 5,500 Twitter accounts linked to IS in the days since the attacks.

In a YouTube video that launched the Anonymous campaign #OpParis on Saturday, an Anonymous spokesperson  declared:

To defend our values and our freedom, we are tracking down members of the terrorist group responsible for these attacks. We will not give up. We will not forgive. And we will do all that is necessary to end their actions.”

But can Anonymous make any real difference in the fight against Islamic State? What can hacktivists achieve that air strikes in Syria or the sophisticated intelligence of Western governments cannot?  Quite a lot perhaps, some say.

The #OpParis campaign builds on the #OpISIS campaign launched early this year after  the Charlie Hebdo attacks when IS affiliated militants shot dead staff at the satirical newspaper.  Anonymous later claimed the Charlie Hebdo campaign exposed and destroyed more than 1,000 IS-linked online accounts, including Twitter accounts, email addresses and other websites.

How are Anonymous deleting IS Twitter accounts?

One analyst who has communicated extensively with Anonymous and many affiliated hacktivists in the months since, said he was able to verify the hacktivists’ claims they took down thousands of IS-related Twitter accounts.  “It is extraordinarily easy to verify, just looked through the lists and the accounts are gone.”

It was Anonymous-affiliated hackers who succeeded in gaining vital intelligence that thwarted a terrorist attack in Tunisia

The new Anonymous campaign goal of the hacktivists is to “finish off” IS altogether, not just on the internet.

Our main goal in this operation is to identify the perpetrators of the Paris terror attacks and all terrorist organisations linked to them, acquire intel to dig deep into the roots of their manpower, disable their propaganda and stop their reach on social media, release their information to the public, and flag down any threat to mankind

Anonymous hacks disrupt IS effort to recruit more members online

Some anyalists describe Anonymous efforts as wasting IS time.. “There is no way that you can stop someone from opening another account under another email. And indeed ISIS has developed all sorts of ways that regenerate accounts very quickly, they have written their own computer programs to hide themselves from a lot of these Anonymous hunters. So the main thing this Anonymous group is doing is really wasting ISIS’s time.  It makes it harder and harder for legitimate ISIS fighters on the frontline — the people who have the greatest of propaganda draw — it makes it harder for them to actually sustain their web presence, because they are busy doing other things.”

“They can’t spend all day recreating the Twitter account that gets deleted four or five times a day.”

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