Anonymous is, by most accounts, losing its self-declared war on ISIS — and in spectacular fashion, too.
Both the FBI and Twitter have now discredited claims made by members of the hacktivist collective last week that #OpParis had wiped out 20,000 ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts.
A spokesperson for Twitter called the lists of accounts published by Anonymous "wildly inaccurate" and "full of academics and journalists" who are not, in fact, ISIS supporters.
After conducting its own review, Ars Technica found that most of the 4,000 Twitter accounts in one Pastebin list hadn't posted messages sympathetic to ISIS at all — some accounts were trolling the militant group, some belong to Palestinians, and some were simply written in Arabic.
To put it more nicely than some have, the self-declared war is "falling apart," though not necessarily at the hands of Anonymous as a whole. Some arms of the loosely organized collective are, once again, distancing themselves from the inaccuracies published by others.
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.— @GroupAnon
Despite all of the criticism Anonymous is attracting with its "war," one particular battle is winning the group some praise. Today, as promised, members of the ISIS-related Anonymous operations #OpParis and #OpISIS are mass-rickrolling hashtags associated with the militant group.Internet culture phenomenon
The rickroll is a classic bait-and-switch meme dating back to at least 2007, when it emerged on 4Chan as a practical joke in which someone promises something sensational in a link that actually leads to the music video for Rick Astley's 1987 hit song Never Gonna Give You Up.
It has since become an internet culture phenomenon, and has been used for comedic effect over the years by the White House, the New York Mets, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and more.
Just after 3 a.m. ET Tuesday morning, the main #OpParis Twitter account released the first of its rickrolling targets: The hashtag #SupportISIS.
Our first, yet simple hashtag to #RickrollDaesh is #SupportISIS. Simple, but just our starter. Remember to post the video link. Have fun.— @OpParisOfficial
About 70 operatives have now tweeted out the link to Astley's video on the #SupportISIS hashtag, many of them multiple times, and just over 80 more have used #RickrollDaesh to share the video.
In fact, almost everything posted to these hashtags on Nov. 24 contained a link to Never Gonna Give You Up as of Tuesday afternoon.
Rick Astley spearheading the war against #ISIS with powerful cheese. #SupportISIS #RickrollDaesh https://t.co/cl4M1AZ1dw— @DanDarkPill
Important info for people that #supportisis https://t.co/a9HiRtRl0Y #syria #iraq— @IAmKlose_
To Torment ISIS, @OpParisOfficial Unleash Their Most Powerful Weapon Yet: https://t.co/kHqBueOaeZ #OpPARIS pic.twitter.com/UA0oheinVi— @DeannaRilling
The idea behind spamming a hashtag is to flood it with so many junk tweets that it becomes virtually impossible for anyone to communicate actual messages using it.
Members of ISIS have actually used this strategy in the past to spread propaganda for the group on social media, and pranksters have also been known to delight in "hijacking" the hashtags promoted by brands on Twitter.
Hashtag spamming can be a successful way to derail an online community — but only when an active hashtag is being spammed.
Only about 40 tweets had been posted to the #SupportISIS hashtag this year before it was targeted by Anonymous, and many of those tweets were jokes, or anti-ISIS in nature.
Still, the online masses seem to love the idea of "rickrolling" ISIS, regardless of how effective the campaign's execution has been.
@OpParisOfficial #rickrolldaesh is AMAZINGLY PHENOMENAL!!! KUDOS.— @LaurR3n33
The @OpParisOfficial account stated on Twitter Tuesday morning that it would be releasing a new hashtag to spam each night.
According to a post on the AnonHq website, this rickrolling campaign is the hacking collective's "most powerful weapon yet."