Following the deaths of 12 people gunned down in an attack at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris, Anonymous, which has a long history of cyber attacks on governments, corporations, and religions organisations, has pledged revenge against Islamic extremists.
In a message on YouTube under the hashtag #OpCharlieHebdo, the group says:
“We will track you down – every last one – and will kill you. You allowed yourselves to kill innocent people, we will therefore avenge their deaths.”
It has also left a “message to the enemy of the freedom of speech” on Pastebin:
“Freedom of speech and opinion is a non-negotiable thing, to tackle it is to attack democracy. Expect a massive frontal reaction from us because the struggle for the defense of those freedoms is the foundation of our movement.
“We are Legion.
“We do not forgive.
“We do not forget.
This is the typical sign-off for threats from Anonymous, considered a loose network of hackers who combine their expertise to attach their targets.
Anonymous has previously announced plans to target a specific group, and followed through.
Last year the group coordinated an attack known as#OpIsrael against Israeli websites “in retaliation for the mistreating of people in Gaza and other areas”.
In 2013, it also allegedly hacked North Korea’s intranet and stole secret military documents.
The internet is a vital recruiting tool for for Islamic extremists, with social media accounts of the Islamic State leadership being used to encourage young people to join their cause.
Australia’s outgoing spy chief David Irvine last year said the social media wars had changed the face of terrorism.
In an address to the National Press Conference, Irvine said:
“Graphic and highly emotive social media coverage – through the ubiquitous mediums such as Facebook and Twitter that are well known to us all – has brought these conflicts directly to Australians in a way no other similar conflict has been presented before. Extremists use this new media to disseminate their message, interactively bringing their gory barbarity back to Australia, with the aim of radicalising young Australians in real time as they sit at home or wait for buses and trains in the morning.
Australians are now acting as English language Islamist extremist propagandists, accessing audiences and contacts they could not have dreamed of before social media to connect them. They, and other predatory radicalisers, continue to target often already alienated individuals, isolating and then grooming and further radicalising them – with the conflicts in Syria and Iraq central in their narrative whilst doing so.”
Read his full speech here.
Twitter, Facebook or Youtube are now being used as the personal advertising space for terrorist cells looking to radicalise young Muslims.
The most notable example of this in Australia was IS militant Khaled Sharrouf, one of Australia’s most deadly terrorists, tweeted a photo from Syria of his 7-year-old son holding the severed head of a solider.
“That’s my boy,” the tweet read.
In November, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the UN Security Council that modern-day terrorists are “masters of social media” that are younger and more dangerous than ever before.
She said today’s terrorists “incite each other” in order to spread propaganda and encourage new followers and recruits, and that “We must starve terrorist organisations of fighters, funding and legitimacy.” Read more on that here.
It’s always difficult to tell whether threats from Anonymous are material because of the loose nature of the network. But the seeming approval of the initial message shows that the threat to Islamists has attracted attention of some of the group’s members.
Given that governments have been looking for a way to combat the spread of radical Islamic propaganda on the internet, many might be quietly welcoming this development, even hoping it goes ahead.
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