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?