When the hacker collective Anonymous officially declared Dec. 11 "Troll ISIS Day," it was a social media call to arms to head online and mock the terrorist group. Given that ISIS (also known as ISIL, the Islamic State, and by its Arabic acronym Daesh) uses social media as both a recruitment tool and means of disseminating propaganda, it seemed like an appropriate mode of attack.
Sure enough, on Friday Twitter was abuzz with hashtags and pictures heckling ISIS.
The campaign against ISIS comes at the same time that Anonymous is directing its digital ire against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. It declared a new online campaign, #OpTrump, designed to take down the GOP front-runner, similar to its #OpISIS and #OpParis efforts against ISIS following the "Charlie Hebdo" and more recent Paris attacks.
But how effective are these kinds of social campaigns? Does it have a tangible impact, or does it just devolve into friends sharing funny memes? When it comes to going after ISIS, Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University in Montreal, thinks it's more the latter.
"I think that what those sort of online campaigns are incredibly effective at doing is raising public awareness about an issue. That's not happening with this. Everyone already knows ISIS are d*****bags," Coleman told CBS News, jokingly referring to the hashtag #Daeshbags that Anonymous suggested users include in tweets. "It's interesting in that I've always thought the power of Twitter was not so much to foment politics and revolution as to be a human archive of what people think about global events."
That human archive sometimes contributes to the problem. For every tweet that blasted ISIS and its actions, there were others that contained inflammatory, sometimes derogatory content directed at Muslims.
"You know there are a lot of people within Anonymous who were excited about and also dreading it (Troll ISIS Day). They were dreading it knowing that a lot of material would be offensive to Muslims," she said. "One of the things I'm looking out for are memes and images that set out to truly offend ISIS itself and not Muslims as a whole."
Coleman said these kinds of posts often take ISIS imagery and edit in funny and subversive alterations -- like including the image of popular Internet celebrity Grumpy Cat in the scene of an ISIS beheading.
Coleman said that while these kinds of campaigns don't necessarily have tangible results -- tweeting a cat picture is not going to disrupt the terror group's operations -- opening up these efforts to the public at large has a democratizing effect.
In an online post to ghostbin.com announcing Troll ISIS Day, Anonymous wrote that the campaign could have an impact in that participants do not have to be part of Anonymous to participate.
"Anyone can do this and [it] does not require any special skills," the post said.
Coleman said that the campaign's greatest value may come in revealing a lack of recognizable humanity in the terror group as a whole.
"I think terrorists -- ISIS -- are seen as one of the most humorless of organizations on planet Earth," she said. "Anonymous, who are all into humor, are using their offensive brand of humor to make that point that terrorists don't have a shred of humor."