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If US Is Really Able To Target ISIS Sites Based On Social Media Posts... Why Is It Trying To Stop ISIS From Using Social Media?

from the questions-to-ponder dept

You may have heard the story that came out recently, claiming that the US Air Force was able to bomb an ISIS headquarters building based on a photo posted to social media. The story has gone somewhat viral and has been getting a lot of attention. The key bit, from DefenseTech:
“The guys that were working down out of Hurlburt, they’re combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command. And in some social media, open forum, bragging about the command and control capabilities for Daesh, ISIL. And these guys go: ‘We got an in.’ So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] take that entire building out.”
Frankly, this story has the "too good to be true" or "too good to fact check" kind of feel to it -- and tons of press have picked up on it. We'll leave it to others to sort out whether or not it really happened. However, if it did happen, doesn't it seem bizarre that folks in our government are -- at the very same time -- insisting that social media sites should be censoring and shutting down ISIS social media accounts? After all, if they can provide so much information to allow us to bomb ISIS headquarters in under a day (remember: "we kill based on metadata"), then shouldn't the US government actually be encouraging more of these "morons" to be posting photos and revealing their whereabouts and other secrets?

It seems like the US always struggles with this kind of crap. Nearly a decade ago, we had Senators demanding that YouTube not allow "terrorists" to keep their accounts, even as YouTube coverage was helping to reveal atrocities and bring more attention to horrible attacks. Or we'd see stories of law enforcement using Craiglist to help bust prostitution rings while still blaming Craigslist and demanding they stop allowing such things to happen on the platform.

Why is it that grandstanding American politicians always want to blame the platforms for people doing bad stuff on those platforms, even when those platforms appear to provide all sorts of useful information that apparently help law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the military do their jobs?
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Filed Under: air force, censorship, intelligence community, isis, metadata, research, social media


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 4:32pm

    Why solve a problem when making it less visible is so much easier?

    Because actually solving a problem takes work, time, and the effects aren't immediately visible to use for PR. Brushing the problem under the rug however takes minimal work, minimal time, and the 'results' are almost immediately available to use for PR.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mr. sim (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 6:33pm

    because for some messed up reason they seem to have a way of finding stupid people to recruit on them. seriously it's their best recruitment tool according to the bbc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ragnarredbeard, 5 Jun 2015 @ 6:40pm

    Yeah, not buying the story. Was in the AF for 24 years as an intel specialist and this story sounds like an incredible pile of BS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 6:55pm

      Re:

      I believe the "we blew something up based on a social media post and coincidentally we blew up all the evidence that could prove we were wrong" part, at least.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Padpaw (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 5:37am

        Re: Re:

        you know what the US government says. "anyone killed by a drone strike is declared a terrorist post mortem"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 3:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Anyone who runs from an approaching drone is a terrorist. Anyone who allows himself to be killed by a drone is a well-disciplined terrorist.

          1984 provides the best metaphors for the war on terror, but FMJ has the best quotes.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      mr. sim (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 7:39pm

      Re:

      @ Ragnarredbeard

      if it is true I'm betting money the guy didn't know he forgot to turn off that feature that puts your gps coordinates in the photos.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 7:54pm

      Re:

      Yeah, not buying the story.

      Ditto. If it were true, it'd be classified top secret all the way down. Why tell 'em how you found them?!? That's nuts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustShutUpAndObey, 5 Jun 2015 @ 6:42pm

    The endgame

    The endgame of all governments is total censorship (esp. of the internet) and targeting (initially only some) social media is a great opening move toward that goal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonmylous, 5 Jun 2015 @ 6:44pm

    Money

    They do it because if agencies can find and stop criminals easily, they have no reason to increase those agencies budgets year over year.

    Its the new version of the old budget "spend it lose it" mentality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Torn between fools and knaves., 5 Jun 2015 @ 7:45pm

    "We'll leave it to others to sort out whether or not it really happened."???

    The KEY ESSENTIAL GOTTA-KNOW BASIS, and Masnick isn't interested! Masnick may as well state: "Don't question the government."

    Whether US gov't is MURDERING PEOPLE* by drone strikes in another country? Or putting out BIG LIE sheer propaganda? Either are HORRIBLY BAD, but not to worry is the new normal!

    Instead Masnick blathers on one of his favorite "libertarian" notions, that letting criminals openly advertise is somehow good; we'll catch more that way, instead of it degrading society.

    Sheesh. Writers here at Techdirt now just take the bare fact that assertions are made by the gov't and bloviate. A minion yesterday repeated clearly US gov't propaganda that Russia is attacking the entire internet with propaganda! Intent of this seems to be so confuse that no one is certain of anything.

    We are so far down the rabbit hole, folks, that some don't even know there is an objective "outside" from which to view facts.

    Worst part is that Masnick isn't being cleverly provocative and getting page views by drawing out defense against absurdities, he actually believes the tripe he writes. This one absolutely clinches that. -- And by the way, "leave it to others" is a characteristic Masnickism. He's an Ivy League grad, you know.


    * And don't claim "they" (if real!) deserved it: you don't know, so are just mindless jingoist. A government killing people is ALWAYS bad even if definitely necessary. Won't be much longer before that gov't turns its tyranny your way, that's the real purpose and inevitable result of imperialism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 6:23am

      Re: "We'll leave it to others to sort out whether or not it really happened."???

      The KEY ESSENTIAL GOTTA-KNOW BASIS, and Masnick isn't interested! Masnick may as well state: "Don't question the government."

      You do realize that this article (unlike EVERY OTHER article covering this story) suggests that the story isn't true. Based on that, I think it's pretty clear that what you claim is true of this article is absolutely true of all those other articles but NOT for Masnick's.

      Reading comprehension is not your strong suit, is it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 6:46am

      Re: "We'll leave it to others to sort out whether or not it really happened."???

      "Masnick may as well state: "Don't question the government.""

      In an article that openly questions it? Still not found the planet the rest of us live on, I see.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2015 @ 7:19pm

        Re: Re:

        Funny how out_of_the_blue can misconstrue any article about the government, even critical ones, to be supportive. But when it comes to national plans to spy on people while ignoring the Constitution he'll defend them to the death.

        ...Well, it'd be funny if it wasn't so miserably pathetic.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 7:53pm

    The story is plausible in the sense that the photo could have been geotagged, in which case it could have held the GPS coordinates the photo was taken at. The photo containing the building and the post describing it's function would have told them that they wanted to bomb something there, and exactly which building they wanted to bomb.

    If that is indeed the case, and the story is accurate as far as it goes; my question is when are they going to prosecute the people who leaked this to the media for espionage and/or treason? These people told ISIS, an enemy of the US, exactly how they'd screwed up costing them an important building. Allowing ISIS to rectify the problem in the future, eliminating a US advantage.

    Though that, as I said, assumes that the story is the unvarnished truth. Another possibility is that the post was fake(either deliberate deception, or some random idiot making false boasts), and the US bombed something unassociated with ISIS, which hopefully contained no civilians, and no things of any value.

    A third possibility is that the story is made up out of whole cloth. A disinformation campaign designed to discourage ISIS from using social media for fear of being bombed every time they post. In which case the fear will probably last only as long as it takes for ISIS to figure out that it's fake.

    I supposed it could be a combination of possibilities 1 and 3. That the incident did happen as said, but they decided to release the story to the press in hopes that it would discourage ISIS from using social media. In which case it would mean the US government places a higher priority on discouraging ISIS from using social media, than it does on accurately bombing ISIS targets. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ken Mitchell, 5 Jun 2015 @ 8:03pm

    "If US Is Really Able To Target ISIS Sites Based On Social Media Posts... Why Is It Trying To Stop ISIS From Using Social Media?"

    Because very few jihadis are foolish enough to post photos of recognizable buildings and say "I work there!". It's not as if they're posting photos with EXIF data still attached; nobody is THAT stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 8:13pm

      Re:

      Whatever else they may be, the groups are still composed of people, and yes, people can indeed be that stupid. Here on TD alone there have been several 'dumb criminal' stories where idiot criminals were taken down by the very evidence they provided publicly, what makes you think these morons would be any smarter?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DV Henkel-Wallace (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 9:52pm

    Could be "spy vs spy"

    I doubt the story is true. Photo geotagging could be faked (I could construct a tag for the white house and put it in a picture I post to instagram) so is not enough, alone, to reliably locate a site.

    But still there are plausible explanations:

    But consider that the military already knew the location via other means, and did want to take the building out but didn't want it to get out how they knew. Then this loser posts a photo and "wham" -- now they have a plausible excuse.

    Another point: perhaps now some terrorists will strip the location info out...but may will not. So by publicising this, it will encourage the jihadis to avoid social media sites (since the story will become garbled and all social media sites become suspect). This degrades their recruiting and publicity channels, which makes their life harder. If I were a military strategist the trade off might become worth it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 12:14am

      Re: Could be "spy vs spy"

      Another point: perhaps now some terrorists will strip the location info out...

      That, or have their photograph taken in front of a building that they want to take out. Why play with homemade bombs when you can get the US to deliver the real thing right on target.

      /s

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    president of a very scarey large l33t hax0r org, 6 Jun 2015 @ 1:25am

    september 12 2001

    george bush called hackers terrorists on tv that day....
    I then went and hacked the talibans news website....

    september 13th
    george bush came back on tv , and said and i'll quote..
    " hehe{his funny stupid retarded laugh} ..ok hackers aren't terrorists...hehe{his stupid retarded laugh} ..but could you leave the site alone..."

    ya know like they was gonna put plans in detail right on there website so the usa gov't morons could ...hehe { my stupid retarded laugh } prevent another attack....

    THIS is so simular one must wonder what is up....

    OH just an aside ....THEY DON'T USE faceplant....i as hacker once infiltrated one of there private sites....they wasn't happy when i let loose i wasn't arab.

    OH and i destroyed that site totally. I also left a message to them that there actions led to one of my top members getting to watch ( he was at time) hundreds of people jump out the windows of one of the towers as the heat drove them out.

    he got out of a psychiatric ward 2 years later.

    p.s. if you htink your govt is so legite and cool...i have proof on a hard drive of the fbi , attacking illegally a canadian isp early in 2000 and the only effective measure they could come up wiht was the same type of attack that sabu used and it thusly tipped all of us off about "anonymous" not being so good. I and others spread the word and its why the US and friends got so few top notch lads and lasses....

    BTW enjoy your issues with the chinese...last go round we intervened and helped you...we are not doing it this time cause of your new law that allows you to hack other nations ....

    president of said very scvarey large l33t hax0r org....

    p.s. oh and just before 9/11 one ex member gave us a gift ( we never bothered to retal on your fbi ...as there largely in effective attack was a joke really....) he hacked hte fbi server rooted it and passed the code to us ..we thusly put it ( the unicode ) on a mug with out website andlogo and sold it inside the usa....FOR THE LOLZ ///no profits to us....and 934 got sold before the mug was turned sideways ( not taken down )
    and that was in 12 hrs....haha over 10000 we sold in a week....

    have a nice day and log my ip ...i guarantee you this box is already rooted by half a dozen people in the area....including myself....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    president of a very scarey large l33t hax0r org, 6 Jun 2015 @ 1:27am

    adlib

    ( he was [18] )

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 2:58am

    Is there a better question?

    Why is it that grandstanding American politicians always want to blame the platforms for people doing bad stuff on those platforms, even when those platforms appear to provide all sorts of useful information that apparently help law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the military do their jobs?
    A fine question, to which the answer is "because morons". Whether it's actually true or not is another good question - probably not since surely they're not quite dumb enough to reveal an effective method of intel gathering? If it is true, though, it strikes me a better question might be:
    If public social media can produce more actionable intel than, for example, hoovering up every email, phonecall and internet log in the world seems to... Why are you invading everyone's privacy again, Uncle Sam?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 3:07am

    And now we wait until one of them posts a selfie with the white house in the background, claiming its where their leaders are.

    Friendly reminder that Therrurists lie even more than western politicians. Shit the only connection between Osomo and 911 was that he said "oy we did it, believe it m8!"...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jake, 6 Jun 2015 @ 4:07am

    Because they're scared of competing ideologies besides whatever can call the one currently dominating the USA and by extension the rest of the Anglosphere, that's why.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    leehb9 (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 4:28am

    Very Confusing...

    Since when does the left hand ever tell the right hand what it's doing? This is exactly how our government is supposed to work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 5:34am

    Well naturally, if they remove the terrorists ability to use social media then they cannot target all those dangerous fringe groups that use it as well, by claiming that its to fight terrorism while trampling on the rights of others.

    groups like protesters, whistleblowers, porn industry workers, political dissenters, basically anyone and any group that the government decides they don't like what they say act or do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Abara, 6 Jun 2015 @ 6:31am

    New terrorrist tactic

    Thanks for the info, now all ISIS has to do is post "hanging in front of HQ" when he's really in front of an opposant's barricaded house wait a few hours and boom.
    Rinse and repeat...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 6:58am

    So what happens when ISIS uses this to fool the military into targeting an unaffiliated building?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 7:02am

      Re:

      The same as what happened when the US invaded a country with no links to 9/11 in response? People dead, massive disruption, no blame accepted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary Mont (profile), 7 Jun 2015 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      In an American Declared Warzone, absolutely everything that moves is automatically designated an enemy combatant - farm animals, babies, women, elderly, insects, pets, children, foreign journalists, etc..

      This pretty much eliminates the hassle of having to report on collateral damage.

      Thus, should ISIS (continue to) use the US War-machine's gullibility, via social media, to make the US forces target and destroy anti-ISIS buildings and persons, US policy dictates that anyone who gets killed by the incoming Obama-drones, automatically becomes labelled as "terminated terrorists. "

      If you can't beat the media, own the media.

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    madasahatter (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 7:28am

    Do not underestimate stupidity

    I am not be surprised at the amount of useful intelligence that could be gleaned from social media sites. To expect your average ISIS dim bulb not to post actionable intelligence on a social media site is ludicrous. If they will post very personal details why would anyone expect them not post something juicier.

    Whether the story referenced is true, plausible but not proven would be my verdict.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 11:29am

    I see the problem, it's an easy mistake to make. You are forgetting that the people in our government are FUCKING MORONS.

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150604/17404531229/top-fbi-official-says-tech-companies-need-to- prevent-encryption-above-all-else.shtml

    "So that’s the challenge: working with those companies to build technological solutions to prevent encryption above all else."

    while at the same time the US Government's HR Dept was hacked.

    "To protect employees from identity theft, OPM is giving them free “credit report access, credit monitoring and identify theft insurance and recovery services,” according to the press release. "

    Know what would be an easier, and less expensive way to protect employees.... encrypting the fucking data so that if it is accessed it can't be read.

    Maybe they did use social media (odds are they have an informant with access to the organization and they just want to protect their identity) and they still want to shut it down, because this is America and we are clever enough to shut down their social media access, and still track them though social media, in the same brilliant way that the FBI boss wants to have a secret golden key to any encryption that is used, or simply weaken it, while at the same time making everything more secure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 2:46pm

    Compulsive and gratuitous prevarication twists the truth to the point where nothing that our government has meaning, except of course "you are under arrest."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 2:49pm

    Methinks it's some sort of limited hangout type of thing going on. That there's some sort of metadata in the picture that confirmed an existing analysis or so...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary Mont (profile), 7 Jun 2015 @ 10:27am

    New motto: A job worth doing, is a job worth doing forever.

    "Why is it that grandstanding American politicians always want to blame the platforms for people doing bad stuff on those platforms, even when those platforms appear to provide all sorts of useful information that apparently help law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the military do their jobs?"

    Perhaps because these groups really do not want to do their "apparent" jobs very well, because if they did those jobs well, then the bad guys would be minimized and these groups would have nothing to do, and would quickly become redundant - losing their lucrative "always need more funding" gravy train.

    Just a guess. :)

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2015 @ 10:33am

      Re: New motto: A job worth doing, is a job worth doing forever.

      My guess is that politicians do not like platforms that allow people to talk to many other people as it allows them to organize themselves without the aid of the politicians.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gary Mont (profile), 7 Jun 2015 @ 11:03am

        Re: Re: New motto: A job worth doing, is a job worth doing forever.

        "...organize themselves without the aid of the politicians."

        Oh absolutely true.

        All of the Old Guard hate the internet and social media because it is the fledgling global public hive mind that has foiled more of their plans than all the whistleblowers in history.

        In the good old days it was easy to fool your own population into believing the designated enemy of the day was evil and the cause of all ills, and should be destroyed, quickly rousing the rabble to military recruitment, because generally, only the wealthy had the ability to travel and listen to the people of the other nations and the wealthy are the ones who make money from war and strife and chaos.

        With the web and the fledgling human hive mind, this is no longer as easy as it was because people of all nations can communicate and thus people are not as easy to fool.

        Because politicians, like "Captains of Industry and Finance" are, without exception, the sons and daughters of the rich who have never learned anything but how to make money, make money, they are not very good at actually thinking on their feet if the outcome is not about turning one dollar into three dollars repeatedly, so they need things to be super easy when it comes to subterfuge and propaganda and the web is interfering with that ease.

        If it were not for the fact that most of these parasites were already making money selling shit as Shinola, or child pornography on the web, the internet would have been dismantled ten years ago.

        ----

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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