Anonymous has claimed that Twitter mistakenly shut down several of its activist accounts in a widespread cull of pages belonging to terrorist supporters.
In an effort to rid the site of an extremist presence, Twitter has recently suspended over 125,000 accounts for ‘threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS.’ However, the international activist group Anonymous is now reporting that among this number were multiple member accounts, which were actively supporting the fight against the Islamic State and helping to seek out terrorist supporters and recruiters online.
Anonymous Twitter hacktivists, including WauchulaGhost, reported over the platform that their accounts had been temporarily suspended without warning in the last month. As part of a campaign, known as Operation ISIS (or #OpISIS), these Anonymous members had been working to disrupt terrorist communications online.
In a graphic uploaded to Twitter, WauchulaGhost argued: ‘Who suspended 125,000 accounts? Anonymous, Anonymous affiliated groups and Everyday Citizens. But there is NO mention of this […] You do realize if we stopped reporting terrorist accounts and graphic images, Twitter would be FLOODED with Terrorists.’
Twitter has typically re-opened the Anonymous accounts within a matter of hours, bombarded with requests by hacktivists and the wider online community.
In addition to Anonymous, other hacktivist groups such as Ctrl Sec and GhostSec, are part of growing OpISIS-style movements recruiting vigilantes to help fight against extremism online, arguing that the efforts made by those behind social media sites and communications platforms are not sufficient. These groups compile regular lists of thousands of accounts that they believe are managed by ISIS supporters. Reports [PDF] have confirmed the positive impact of this strategy on reducing the diffusion of pro-ISIS propaganda among English-speaking supporters.
However, like Twitter in this instance, the lists have too often also included accounts operated by academics, activists and journalists, simply mentioning ISIS in their tweets.