Open Source Warfare

The ideas behind how Open Source patterns are being applied to areas outside the realms of software, as Clay Shirky discusses, that “…my initial optimism about simple application of Open Source methods to other endeavors turned out to be wildly overoptimistic” (p. 484, 2005). Personally, I find this as an intriguing statement because at that time, a group the world knows as “Anonymous”, a collective of activist and hackers all over the world had existed for at least 2 years using the Open Source pattern to function as an organization. The only problem here was they were not in the public eye by any means as they had yet to really show the level of Open Source operation they would eventually develop. A similar group, formed in 1999 has garnered similar status in its use of this format and currently is effecting citizens around the world is the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Both use the same pattern of operation to great effect and both of them fall into the category of extremist groups, something I am sure Shirky would never have wanted to see as so successful.

Now what brings this to mind, as many of you already probably know, is Anonymous’s recent intent to start war with ISIS over the recent Paris attacks. Articles across the web from top news sources such as The Verge,  Huffington Post and CBS News hosting a live video feed of the whole situation, are weighing in and speculating how this will pan out. We have a group of two forms of extremist groups functioning as a large collective mind where members are adapting, enhancing and sharing information to carry out an overall final objective.

This war is being waged in the online space through web portals and social media sites alike where Anonymous members are hunting down ISIS related material and removing or deleting them entirely. The question at hand here is whether the actions taken by Anonymous are actually doing more harm than good by removing ISIS’s online presence as this in reality is making them even more difficult to track down. In essence, Anonymous is creating an information blackout of ISIS whereabouts in a time where they are pressing to take more actions similar to the Paris attacks.

What is even more interesting, coming from The Verge in an article posted November 19, 2015 is part of a statement regarding “…agencies like the State Department have gone head to head with ISIS accounts, treating Twitter as a safe space to argue and engage with radicals.” So here, we are having government agencies thinking that social media platforms such as Twitter are safe zones to have legitimate arguments with extremist, terrorist organizations. It is like saying having an open fight with your crazy ex who is threatening to kill your friends through Twitter. Is that really a good idea? Well with some common sense, the answer is no it is not at all a good idea.

We're from the Internet - Anonymous

Here we have two large extremist groups waging an online war through web portals and social media, the major tools of propaganda for furthering their group’s major agendas. How do you think this is affecting both groups as well as the greater population? How is this different from how many of us act on social media? What if this were to be tactics possible in World War II, would the online war be waged the same between the camps between the allies and axis armies?




Shirky, C. (2005). Epilogue: Open Source Outside the Domain of Software and Source. In Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software (pp. 483-488). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


4 thoughts on “Open Source Warfare

  1. The questions you asked in this post are relevant and difficult to answer. The difference in the average person’s social media use and groups like these extreme organizations is not so much in amount/type of use but in terms of objectives. Civilized society (both an online and offline one) is dependent on participants behaving and communicating in ethical ways. The last week has brought what is happening through open source methods to light. Does this knowledge of how these extremist groups communicate and organize help in the war against terrorism? I would like to think so. However, it also gives attention to their causes. I am reminded of the number of music piracy sites that start up until caught/fined as another one emerges in its place. I would like to think that more communication could have helped deter past wars and atrocities, especially World War II; it took so long for people to really see what was happening. Yet, that idea of more communication is dependent on two parties have a desire/reason to resolve the conflict. That’s one of the things that makes the recent happenings difficult to understand or analyze—neither group is looking to resolve conflict or make demands.


  2. When we create multiple accounts, each account will save a distinct user name and password. I side the one house and when we use our account in smart phone and iPad, we know that iPad is one user device and often shared among family members. That means there is no privacy and security to protect the user. In addition to that, multi-account user with some users are very confusing. It is difficult to maintain multi-account specially if these different accounts for different strategies.


  3. Personally I support Anonymous. I believe that they have huge potential of actually doing good things. However, people who have that much control over personal information are those we have to watch. As with any group that has power people are afraid of them. Therefore Anonymous has been labeled a terrorist group.


  4. i also support most of the actions taken by Anonymous. However, my issue is with the individuals that create videos that mimic Anonymous. These are copycats that are merely ranting on their own behalf, disguised as a member of the group. This takes away some of the merit behind the warnings posted by the actual group when the actions predicted by the copycat do not come to fruition.


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