The “hacktivist” group Anonymous has launched a social media campaign against Islamic State militants, telling FRANCE 24 that Operation Ice ISIS aims to “protect those who are defenseless, both in the cyber world and the real world”.
Wearing the group’s trademark Guy Fawkes mask and with his voice digitally disguised, one member of the loosely coordinated network of activists explained the reasons behind the social media campaign on FRANCE 24's "Tech 24" programme.
He said that by launching Operation Ice ISIS, Anonymous wanted to underscore the seriousness of the threat posed by Islamic State militants (also known as ISIL or ISIS) as well as make it clear that the jihadist group does not represent – nor uphold – the values of the Muslim faith.
“We took this initiative in order to establish two things,” he said. “One: We needed the public to understand how urgent the situation is in Iraq. Before the mainstream media took serious direction in reporting the ISIS threat, we were one of the first to communicate it to the masses via the video we uploaded on YouTube in June explaining how and why ISIS came to be. We also made it clear that the United States was not free of blame as it has, directly and indirectly, contributed to the crisis we see today.”
“The second reason was that we needed to make sure the public knew that ISIS did not represent the Islamic religion. Time and time again, we’ve seen confusion and hatred when news of any group that had called itself ‘Islamic’ surfaced. We were determined not to let that happen again. Muslims and Christians alike have been victims of this tragedy and we were prepared to answer questions and address any concerns that had to deal with this topic.”
Anonymous has posted several videos on YouTube in recent months about the Islamic State militants and their actions in the Middle East. The man in the mask went on to explain what specific tactics Anonymous was now using to counter the Islamic State group’s online presence.
“In the video we released, we planned to attack several countries that were knowingly supporting ISIS financially, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia. We warn that if they continued to support ISIS, we would be forced to destroy their virtual infrastructure – and yes, we have those who can do this.”
“However, due to recent events, we took it upon ourselves to change our strategy and face this problem a different way. ISIS, of course, is not a government. Therefore, they have no government websites and most of their activity is on social media. We have rarely encountered a situation such as this. So what we decided to do is, instead of attacking them directly, we decided to attack their ideologies with truth and logic. In the process, we were doing our job to inform the people that these criminals are liars and deceivers, and they do not deserve to be listened to.”
In its war against the Islamic State group's ideology, Anonymous said it is respecting the "rules of engagement" laid out by the Muslim faith.
“We cited Islam’s rules of engagement, which include not harming prisoners of war, or cutting down a tree, or attacking ministries. We also cited the covenant the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, had with all worshipping Christians, and that whoever breaks that covenant is excluded from his people. Things like these drastically change their influence on social media and exposes them for who they are – gangsters who hijack the Islamic religion.”
There have already been several attempts to counter the Islamists’ online influence. Twitter, for example, has already taken down several accounts belonging to Islamic State jihadists. But Anonymous is known for its firm stance against all forms of censorship. FRANCE 24 asked if those who have criticised the group for its campaign against the militants were right in saying that it had compromised that principle.
“Well, we should make it clear to them that, yes – in the beginning of the operation we did plan on hijacking certain Twitter accounts, like [those run] by ISIS members. But we thought to ourselves, why would we take down a direct line of information? They love to brag and show off their strength – and we believe that is their ultimate weakness. We decided to utilise that. And instead of taking them down, we publicly respond to them. Sometimes they do respond back and sometimes they don’t. Because they simply cannot argue with the truth we lay before them. We believe that all censorship is unacceptable. And to those who believe that in doing this we are censoring, we tell them that sometimes we have to take down what everyone knows is false information. There is much confusion in the world already, and we really don’t need more.”
The masked man went on to say that the Islamic State group represented Muslims no more than white supremacist groups represented Christians. He cited the actions of far-right militant Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in twin attacks in Norway in 2011, as well as the “God hates fags” protests of the Westboro Baptist Church and the violent history of the Ku Klux Klan.
“The Islamic State, as they call themselves, is very much like those of the Westboro Baptist Church, those who are affiliated with Anders Breivik and very much like the KKK. We don’t associate those groups with Christianity. So why should we associate ISIS with Islam?” he asked.
As part of its social media efforts, Anonymous has also started an Operation Ice ISIS Twitter account at #OpIceIsis.
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Date created : 2014-09-20