Imagine if the Islamic State (ISIS) lost its online presence. What an improved digital world it would be. No more images of beheadings, no more vile threats or their infuriating propaganda. It would also be a heavy blow to their overall operations.
We’d also be glad that good was overcoming evil, at least in this one arena. But given the scope of what Islamic State is doing online, that may be nothing more than wishful thinking at present. The crazy jihadists use an estimated 45,000 Twitter accounts to send out some 200,000 tweets and retweets daily, says the Brookings Institution, a non-profit research organization.
Meanwhile, despite its military might, the U.S. has proved pretty inept at halting the Islamic State from spreading its message. To counter this, a U.S. defense policy researcher, Emerson Brooking, has thought outside the box.
In an article in Foreign Policy, Brooking argued that the U.S. should consider backing the online hacktivist group Anonymous to further its fight against Islamic State. An approach like this, Brooking says, is what’s needed to effectively counter the Islamic State online.
“A real, lasting solution requires unorthodox thinking and respect for what the Internet has become,” he wrote. “Loosely affiliated hacktivists have spent years honing their ability to harass and disrupt in this same domain. They also hate the Islamic State and all it stands for. Why not work with them?”
Anonymous has already done a decent job in hurting the Islamic State’s online social media presence with their #OpISIS. They’ve also taken down dozens of websites, reports the International Business Times.
Brooking says that the U.S. government should overlook its somewhat fraught relationship with Anonymous, because he says the hacktivist group has a moral compass.
“As a rule, hacktivists despise bullying, hypocrisy, and fundamentalism. The Islamic State couldn’t present a clearer target,” he wrote. He says to support Anonymous in fighting Islamic State online, the U.S. should supply the hacktivists with a financial incentive through the form of bitcoin.
“So long as the initiative attracted attention and payment proved quick, reliable, and tamper-proof—critical when dealing with hackers—it could open a new front in the digital war against the Islamic State,” Brooking wrote.
“Already, social media administrators are struggling to shut down jihadi accounts at a pace that’s not even close to that with which they are being opened. A crowd-sourced hacktivist army could supplement those efforts, identifying and flagging new nodes in the Islamic State’s network the moment they began attracting followers,” he wrote.
So what do you say, Anonymous?