Are Internet trolls now actively moving from the realms of attention seeking, stalking and character assassination to social media-facilitated terrorism and murder?
By Mathew Maavak*
Recently, a US professor mailed me inquiring about the possible misuse of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) to intimidate people who did not subscribe to the mainstream political narrative. She was concerned about the ramifications.
I told her that there was a difference between OSINT and trolling. Many claim to know and employ OSINT, whereas they are merely provoking, intimidating and bullying people online. Left unchecked, this form of psychopathology can lead to violence and even murder.
We have heard of the possibility of “Murder by Internet” or “Virtual Murder” or “Remote Murder” in various guises and methods, but these mainly involved cinematic-worthy hi-tech hackings into hospital life support systems, sabotaging critical systems during a high-risk task, or taking over a driverless car by remote and crashing it and the occupants into permanent oblivion. Or electronically scramble one’s pacemaker with a portable interference device. The possibilities are endless.
But remote murder can be effectuated on a much more mundane level. Just create a hit list of “undesirable people” online, and deliberately cultivated psychopaths will do the rest.
For instance, if a group of neo-Nazis or ISIS holy warriors wanted to take prevalent levels of Western anti-Semitism to the next level, all they have to do is identify Jewish people in one particular area; get their foot soldiers ready (usually neo-Nazis and ISIS jihadis); and publish the geolocations or addresses of their targets online. A mass WhatsApp broadcast can alert psychopaths to a temporary free blog which will have details like names, photos, locations, and addresses etc. The rest would not be too difficult and it could be Kristallnacht in less than an hour. The police won’t be able to respond in a timely fashion to protect fairly dispersed targets.
Perhaps, the most egregious example of an Internet Hit List today is the one published by the Ukrainian politician Anton Gerashchenko. The list apparently contains the names and addresses of 8,000 pro-Russian sympathizers who are currently targeted for elimination. This list was reportedly linked to a Facebook post, but despite numerous complaints by concerned citizens, it was not taken down.
Now get this: This Ukrainian neo-Nazi wants ISIS militants in Syria to take revenge against Russian forces in Syria “in accordance with Sharia law.” He is willing to provide help in locating and identifying Russian personnel in Syria so that militants in the Caucasus region can target them for murder upon their return. And, I am sure their families as well.
As a Russian lawyer noted hastily during a discussion on this subject; this online bazaar for murder is not limited to Russians:
“Gerashchenko is a psychopathic scum that provided for creation of a Web site on which by now personal data of about 8,000 of Ukrainian and Russian citizens, including children — alleged “foes of the Ukraine” — are published. Some opposition journalists like Oles Bouzina who were on the list got murdered by the neo-nazis. http://m.vz.ru/society/2015/10/8/771210.html.
Anatoliy Shariy… (a Ukrainian opposition journalist who’s “on the list” as well) on the Web site created by Gerashchenko’s efforts: http://youtu.be/Ch8UYTau97k.
This shocking attempt to use social media to get people killed has been conveniently ignored by Kiev and its Western allies. Isn’t there an ongoing “war on terror”? Isn’t this a blatant form of terrorism as well?
Hit Lists linked to Facebook posts apparently don’t bother its founder Mark Zuckerberg. He has other priorities, like acquiescing to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s request to monitor “hate speech” online. The “hate speech” in question happens to be citizen dissent against the current refugee influx into Germany. The German authorities, in true time-honoured Stasi tradition, will decide what constitutes hate speech and xenophobia. The accused may end up losing employment and custody of their children.
When the so-called freedom-loving West curtails dissent via draconian panoptic means, and yet allows its champion social media bedlamites to incite xenophobic hate, exhortations to murder, as well as provide the identity and locational details of target groups, what does it say about “Western values?” What does it reveal about the West’s protestations of “human rights” that are perennially promoted by a global network of suspect NGOs?
Gerashchenko’s Hit List was detected early enough as it has appeared in the common vernacular. But what happens if your name and address were included into a similar list in a foreign script or in a coded form and you were unaware of it? Would you be forewarned early enough to take precautions?
I was reminded of this scenario when the US Jewish campus fraternity AEPi issued an anti-Semitism security warning recently.
According to AEPi executive director Andrew Borans, the threat is real. “Unfortunately, we’ve already seen a number of incidences of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric and violence on campuses this fall.”
But the nature of such attacks may change in tandem with the ongoing social media-facilitated Arab intifada. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu described this latest variation in terror tactics as one where “Osama Bin Laden meets Mark Zuckerberg.”
The Gerashchenko Matrix – which I like to call this particular form of social media terrorism – has transcended the borders of Ukraine into Israel. It is going global. But Israeli security services are well-versed in Arabic and may have already cracked any coded messages used online to incite terror.
But what about scattered members of the Jewish community, or for that matter, any other targeted community anywhere? How will one know if his or her name, location, photos and details are already entered into a hit list database in a foreign language or any other coded form known only to the perpetrators?
How many unsuspecting people, including children, could die as a result of the actions of a madman incited by psychopaths running wild on the social media?
I used the anti-Semitism scenario as it is the most likely combined target of two of the most nefarious ideologies today: A resurgent Western Nazism and Global Jihad, spearheaded by ISIS and Al Qaeda.
For some reason, the West gives these sociopaths a free pass, while their internet warriors wage unceasing 24/7 trolling activities against the West’s perceived enemies. Most of the time, this includes anyone who does not buy into the Western establishment’s political narrative hook, line and sinker. US-led online kommissars are reducing the cyberspace into a totalitarian Gulag Archipelago. All in the name of “freedom”!
This is a part-fantasy world where neo-Nazis feign to be pro-Israel, but conveniently attack those who expose long-standing attacks against Jews in Ukraine as –believe it or not – anti-Semites! The logic is so twisted that it rightfully belongs to Goebbels’ playbook.
Here is where they find common cause with certified ISIS sympathizers who also proclaim their love “for Jews” online –to establish some sort of juvenile bona fide – but whose trolling activities are replete with threats of violence and murder against those who expose their sinister intent.
Recently, I got myself actively engaged with a group of trolls at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) group on LinkedIn. There was a group of US Internet Rambos who had long driven out intelligent debates, along with intelligent members, through their 24/7 disruptive activities. Personally, I have long regarded these trolls, who continually feign sympathy for the “plight of ordinary Ukrainians and Syrians”, as fronting for some yet-to-be-ascertained neo-Nazi and/or ISIS cause.
If my hunch was right about the nature and raison d’etre of this group, their actions would be predictable enough. Trolls have their limits when their lies catch up with them. The most likely response expected should be at the fundamental level of the Gerashchenko Matrix – namely online character assassination. (The graduated levels before the apex denouement of murder will be unveiled in due time in a peer-reviewed paper of mine).
If the author wanted credibility, he could have included the entire LinkedIn screenshot referred to in his insensate tripe — in toto. But that was conveniently left out, for it would have exposed this group as having neo-Nazi and ISIS sympathies.
But the poison pen author did include the name of my late thesis supervisor to provide a cheap veneer of verisimilitude to his libellous post. Trolls stoop so low that they have no qualms about tarnishing the reputations of long-deceased people resting in their graves. Now, anyone who was once related in any way in any grave anywhere in the world can be made into a material witness in the “trollground” of cyberspace. All the troll needs to do is google up the name of the target, and find people – past and present – who are somehow related or connected to the target, and then spin a malicious yarn.
This is what Marie Harf referred to as social media evidence, where any canard posted online becomes truth by itself, again echoing the latest US variant of its Goebbelsian national life. This is how the US wins hearts and minds today, at the junction where “Osama Bin Laden meets Mark Zuckerberg.”
What next? An actual assassination? Where does one take the issue of social media terrorism up? The US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur? Many of these trolls are actually ex-employees of various US intelligence and military services, at least as their stated LinkedIn profiles go.
But if the US Embassy in Kiev is doing little or nothing to voice concern over the fate of 8,000 civilians including women and children in its ally’s Internet Kill List, one wonders whether the US government is actively fostering this troll phenomenon that is beginning to take a murderous function creep.