The hacking group Anonymous appears to be facing stumbling blocks in its self-declared cyber war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Just days after the team orchestrating the online assault on the terrorist group’s digital presence said it had uncovered a list of 20,000 ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts, reports emerged that Twitter is wary to accept Anonymous's research because of its consistent inaccuracies.
Anonymous declared a “total war” against ISIS in the wake of the recent terror attacks in Paris. ISIS has taken credit for the deadly assaults on Nov. 13, which killed 129 people, wounding hundreds more.
The team behind the campaign, OpParis, has focused on going after ISIS accounts on Twitter, where many are surprised by the terror group's ease of ability to recruit followers. Within days, OpParis claimed to have taken down 5,500 pro-ISIS Twitter accounts.
Late Friday, the team released a video saying that the number had risen above 20,000. If true, that would be nearly half the total number of ISIS-affiliated, as estimated by the Brookings Institution earlier this year.
“Social media has proven that it is an advanced weapon,” says the person in the video, wearing the trademark Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask and black hoodie. “We must all work together and use social media to eliminate the accounts belonging to terrorists."
The often-divisive hacking group received plaudits from many who were pleased to see hackers turning their attention toward a common enemy, and not government targets.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who has been polling second behind real estate mogul Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRepublicans giving Univision the cold shoulder: report Could Trump and the Democrats make 'ObamaCare Lite' any lighter? Week ahead: House Intel chair under fire over Trump surveillance claims MORE, even cited Anonymous in a Washington Post op-ed as providing “a model” for how to eradicate the terrorist group’s social media presence.
But a growing backlash is developing to the Anonymous assault.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company wasn’t even investigating the lists that Anonymous was publishing because previous research had shown they were rarely correct, tech news site The Daily Dot reported.
“Users flag content for us through our standard reporting channels, we review their reports manually, and take action if the content violates our rules,” the unnamed spokesperson told The Daily Dot. “We don't review Anonymous lists posted online, but third-party reviews have found them to be wildly inaccurate and full of academics and journalists.”
Indeed, Anonymous has been criticized previously for inaccurate leaks. Most prominently, the loosely affiliated group initially identified the wrong policeman in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, Mo.
Some of the more well-known Anonymous Twitter accounts appear to be frustrated with what they see as attention-seeking hackers working under the Anonymous banner.
Over the weekend, the Twitter account @GroupAnon, one of the larger Anonymous accounts with more than 288,000 followers, appeared frustrated.
“Seriously, after #OpISIS there have been too many fame whores. It's not about the follows or RTs. It's about the truth. Have some integrity.”
Another hacktivist, th3j35t3r, called the digital crusade against ISIS a “comedy of errors” in a blog post, accusing Anonymous of releasing fake information.
The hacker — who ArsTechnica reported has a long history of conflict with Anonymous — later said the official OpParis Twitter account acknowledged these errors in a now-deleted tweet.
“so we read your article and… you’re right. We aren’t 100% certain on whether accounts are IS, but not saying they all aren’t.”
For its part, OpParis does not appear to be slowing down. Late Sunday, it tweeted that the group was working to create spam around “#Daesh,” an alternate Arabic name for ISIS often used in Europe.