Anony Anonymous Ethical Issues

The possibility that Anonymous is actually hindering the efforts of the war on ISIS is also present. Firstly, many in Anonymous refuse to work with western governments, like the United States, because as they are combatting ISIS, they are also combatting many actions western governments commit. As there are many sects within Anonymous, however, there are some which work directly with the United States government. One of these groups, Ghost Security Group (or GhostSec) has continually infiltrated online forums and communication networks of ISIS to provide the United States government with information (Schatz, 2015).

They have also claimed personal responsibility for taking down over “149 ISIS-affiliated websites, 110,000 social-media feeds, and 6,000 videos since January [2015]” (Schatz, 2015). Infiltrating forums and taking down websites is no small feat—the internet is too integral of a communication system for these acts to be considered small. The “small dent” argument is almost ridiculous; how much are average citizens really expected to contribute? Anonymous’ efforts are more than sufficient because they do anything at all. Law enforcement agencies and governments are also working against ISIS.

This allows the theory that Anonymous is actually hindering the efforts against ISIS to arise. For example, Anonymous may simply be angering ISIS with their small efforts, causing more terrorist attacks to occur. This is a baseless assumption, however, as there is no research done on this matter. In fact, ISIS seems to regard Anonymous as a separate entity from world governments and has planned cyberattacks of their own, dubbing the people of Anonymous “idiots” (Dunn, 2015). Anonymous has also made some errors and given out false information in their efforts, however.

For example, doxing, the release of personal information in an attempt to “expose” a person, has sometimes been committed on the wrong people because someone in Anonymous had thought that the person was a member of ISIS (Dunn, 2015). This is not the main goal of Anonymous, however; doxing is considered a renegade tactic, which is not entirely supported by members of Anonymous. A public apology is almost always issued and, so far, there have been no reports of falsely doxing ISIS members causing physical or emotional harm (though there have been reports of death threats being received by people who are doxed).

The possibility that Anonymous is hindering or ineffective in the war on ISIS is furthered by the ability for ISIS members to simply create new Twitter and Facebook accounts after they are removed. The problem with this argument is that each time a new account is created, new followers must be obtained as the count will be reset. Taking down the major accounts limits the ability for the word to get out on these accounts as well. As long as accounts with high amounts of followers and fans are repeatedly taken out, the spread through social media will decline.

ISIS can circumvent this by creating hashtags, but even then, the hashtags can be “hijacked” by good Samaritans, and content can be placed which is not related to ISIS at all. There are certain things which Anonymous can do that can help improve their role in countering ISIS. One thing that Anonymous can do is to crowdfund for technology that can assist their DDoS efforts. While at the moment, much of the cyberattacks on ISIS are done by individuals working together, a large server farm can be dedicated to constantly attacking ISIS websites if members of Anonymous each donated a small amount.

This would allow ISIS websites to consistently be down, rather than only be down when Anonymous members have time to attack the websites. If a powerful enough server is acquired, efforts can also be made to automatically browse the internet for new ISIS websites, track the IP addresses of some members of ISIS, and slow the internet for the ISIS members they find. A powerful server would also be able to infiltrate and constantly attack the communication servers used by ISIS, such as Telegram and, especially, the IRC channels used.

In order to improve their role against ISIS, Anonymous can also recruit new members that are closer to ISIS. At the moment, there are few members in ISIS’ major cities and countries, such as Iran, because of the fear of “crackdowns” from ISIS members (Ryan, 2011). The point of Anonymous, however, is that people are, and should be, Anonymous. All it would take is for Anonymous to provide the means to use proxies and private servers to Iranians and other people who are afraid of ISIS, as they did in Operation Egypt and Operation Tunisia.

With the promise of anonymity, having “foot soldiers” in ISIS controlled territories will no longer be a problem because of the inability for ISIS members to track them down. The problem with this idea is the violent nature of ISIS, which would beg the question, “what can people who are close to ISIS do? ” The obvious ability would be for them to be violent back at ISIS, but this would make them no better or less of a terrorist group than ISIS is. Instead, “foot soldiers” could infiltrate ISIS by finding local communication systems and providing access to people outside of the countries/cities.

Habermas’ defines public sphere as an area of life in which people can come together and freely discuss society’s problems, and influence political action (Habermas, Lennox & Lennox, 1974). Under this definition, Anonymous has certainly furthered public sphere, both within the hacktivist group and outside of it. Anonymous is not a closed group; it is a decentralized system with no clear leader, and open participation. Anyone can claim to be a part of Anonymous, and although some actions (such as doxing) are frowned upon, there are enough sects of Anonymous for acceptance somewhere within the group.

This has influenced political action by providing a means to participate in the war on ISIS ran by western governments. Outside of Anonymous, the public sphere was also furthered by the opening of the internet to groups during the Arab Spring uprisings. Anonymous allowed people to connect, find protests, and garner global support, allowing for free and open meetings, which included even oppressed groups such as women. This influenced political action so much that governments were overthrown.

In addition, there are continued efforts to commit political change by these protestors because the exposure to Anonymous caused them to join Anonymous and further political change through the wants of Anonymous (which includes information freedom). Even the main cause of Anonymous itself intends to further public sphere—information freedom gives more people the ability to be involved through knowledge of what is going on. Anonymous’ efforts have greatly affected the Arab world.