It is a sad fact that wherever there is a platform for self-expression, there will be racism, sexism and other such out-dated nonsense. And while there are plenty of campaigns designed to stand up to bullying and support victims of trolling, the dark web organisations which promote such harmful views have largely been able to get away with it. At least, they have so far. A number of hackers are now using their skills to identify and expose websites and individuals associated with hate groups.
Amped Attacks is the name of one such hacker, a digital lone ranger who carries out distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on websites which promote racism, homophobia and religious extremism. So far he has been successful in temporarily disabling the homepage of the Westboro Baptist Church and an ISIS propaganda site.
“Some would argue that because the outages don’t last very long, Amped Attacks is simply drawing attention to these racist and homophobic sites. To be honest, I don’t see this as a problem: we should be aware they exist,” says Venture Beat’s Emil Protalinski. “Plus, knowing that there are people who hate these sites so much that they’ll go out of their way to cause them problems can be a little reassuring for the rest of us.”
At the same time, the infamous hacktivist collective Anonymous has been working on Operation KKK, a large-scale plan to expose the identities of up to 1,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan, with the ultimate goal of shutting it down once and for all.
“After closely observing so many of you for so very long, we feel confident that exposing you is the only just course of action to take,” Anonymous said in a series of tweets addressing the KKK last week. “You are more than extremists. You are more than a hate group. You operate much more like terrorists. And as terrorists, you should be recognised as such. You are terrorists that hide your identities beneath sheets and infiltrate society. We are going to pull the curtain on you and expose you for who you truly are. And you will burn at the stake.”
Anonymous has since tweeted: “KKK WILL BE EXPOSED NOV 5TH.” Perhaps members of the KKK will be less likely to preach their message if they can then be held accountable in real life. Perhaps, less ideally, these people will become victims of abuse themselves from social justice activists. Only time will tell precisely what the fallout of Operation KKK will be, and whether it will help at all in turning the tide of bigotry and discrimination online.