“Anonymous from around the world have decided to declare war against you, terrorists” a purported member of the hacktivist group said in a video uploaded to YouTube, referring to the killers responsible for the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Speaking in French on Anonymous’s Belgian channel, the cybervigilante warned terrorists, “We will track all your online activity, we will close your accounts on every social network.”
A post to text board Pastebin associated with the message states that “We will fight always and everywhere the enemies of freedom of speech…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.”
The video message to the Charlie Hebdo attackers roughly translates to “We will find you until the very last one, destroy you. You killed innocents. You won’t bring Shariah to our democracies. We won’t let your stupidity destroy our freedom of press.”
For now, the #OpCharlieHebdo message is merely a call to action from a sole hacker, though it has received support from other Anonymous-related figures. The loose, decentralized group known as Anonymous does not have a traditional chain of command. Nothing may happen unless others aligned with the cause heed the call.
Late last year, members of Anonymous declared a “full-scale cyber war” against ISIS, and reports indicated the group planned DDOS attacks on countries offering aid to the terrorist group. News of those attacks never came, though. We’ll be watching for any #OpCharlieHebdo actions.
Unfortunately, the Internet largely serves to amplify the message of fear touted by terrorists. 24-hour updates and gruesome images from the scene can make people worry they could become victims, even if the likelihood is infinitesimal. While cybervigilantism has its risks, Anonymous’ could potentially use the power of the Internet crowd to create additional consequences for those seeking to suppress liberty through violence.