As a distant appreciator of Anonymous’ work, I typically have little to complain about. After all, they have brought a measure of justice to a world where red tape allows the guilty to remain free.
But we’ve crossed the threshhold here with this latest #OpISIS campaign. According to n4gm.com,
This time the hacker team has been teaming up with GhostSec and Ctrlsec (two other hacker teams) and released 9,200 Twitter account names as a part of #OpISIS…The @xrsone, the Twitter account that has released the account names is highly encouraging people to share these accounts to apply pressure on Twitter to remove or suspend them as soon as possible
While I’m willing to consider the possible need for vigilante gunslinger social justice on occasion, there are boundaries. And to be frank, these boundaries are moral and logical boundaries which agree with my own personal worldview.
Real World vs Hollywood
You’ve seen in the movies where the vigilante (Dark Knight, The Punisher, V for Vendetta, Man on Fire, Dirty Harry) does the dirty work the police and judicial system can’t or won’t do. And we cheer them on despite their penchant for breaking the laws of the land as they execute their vicious brand of justice.
It feels good to support these characters because, while watching a movie, we have the ability to see behind-the-scenes how evil the bad guys are. In the real world, you don’t get to pan over to the bad guy’s hideout and see all the secret things they’re planning. You only see results without explanations.
In the real world, we have to interpret much less data than superheroes and vigilantes get. We owe it to ourselves to avoid getting in the habit of judging people based on accusations and apparent connections.
The Cost of Social Vigilantism Is Too High
Do I think these 9,200 people support ISIS? No clue. But I don’t have to know. They are using a free tool that shouldn’t discriminate against groups that the masses accuse of terrorism any more than it might someday be asked to discriminate against anti-vaxxers, homeschoolers, or people living off the grid.
For now, it’s safe to assume that Twitter will maintain a professional attitude toward both Anonymous and the 9,200 accused. Just let the reality sink in that hate crimes are no longer accomplished with sticks and clubs. They’re digital, and the consequences that would result from digital vigilante-ism if you’re wrong is unthinkable.