A self-proclaimed hacker who goes by the name Wauchula Ghost claims to have infiltrated hundreds of Twitter accounts belonging to reputed Islamic State sympathizers, replacing their avatars with rainbow flags and tweeting pro-LGBT messages. The hacker has ramped up his efforts in the wake of the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead.
The shooter, Omar Mateen, called police to declare his allegiance to ISIS during his attack on the nightclub, and had expressed homophobic comments in the past.
“I did it for the lives lost in Orlando,” Wauchula Ghost, who refuses to disclose his identity beyond his username, told Newsweek. “Daesh [ISIS] have been spreading and praising the attack, so I thought I would defend those that were lost. The taking of innocent lives will not be tolerated.”
The hacker is affiliated with the activist group Anonymous, and claims to have overtaken more than 200 Twitter accounts belonging to ISIS sympathizers. He created a public Twitter list of accounts he hacked into, the Washington Post reported, called “Jacked accounts,” in the hours after Mateen’s rampage on Pulse in Orlando, and the accounts were quickly suspended by Twitter.
“The government really hasn’t been doing enough especially on social media,” he told the Post. “You see the beheading images everywhere. Kids get online and shouldn’t see these images.”
But the hacker made sure to distinguish between pro-ISIS extremists and Muslims Twitter users. “Our actions are directed at Jihadist extremists. Many of our own [group of hackers] are Muslim and we respect all religions that do not take innocent lives," the hacker told Newsweek.
According to Newsweek, Wauchula Ghost plans to double down on hacking pro-ISIS accounts on Twitter with two other hackers who go by the name Ebony and Yeti.
ISIS has been reputed for it use of social media platforms, including Twitter, to recruit sympathizers and fighters worldwide. Mateen, The New York Times reported, posted a series of messages to multiple Facebook accounts in the days leading up to the shooting voicing support for ISIS. “In the next few days you will see attacks from the Islamic state in the usa,” his last message reportedly read.
NGOs like Report A Terrorist have started initiatives to report and close ISIS affiliated accounts on Twitter; the social network claims to have deleted more than 125,000 ISIS-related accounts off its website.
Alaa Basatneh is a human-rights activist and a writer at Fusion focusing on the Arab world. She is the protagonist of the 2013 documentary "#ChicagoGirl."