Ghost Squad, a hacking group spawned from the Anonymous hacktivist collective, claims it took down the official websites of the Black Lives Matter movement on 29 and 30 April in a protest against actions taken by some of the campaign's supporters.
According to Waqas Amir, a cybersecurity journalist based in Dubai and founder of HackRead, Ghost Squad conducted a series of persistent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against the official websites of the Black Lives Matter movement, beginning on Friday 29 April.
The DDoS attacks caused the web host for blacklifematters.org to completely suspend the domain, while the blacklivesmatter.com domain had its homepage defaced. Then, on 30 April, the Ghost Squad hackers took down the domain of blacklivesmatter.com worldwide again and posted proof on Twitter. Visitors who managed to access the domain received the message: "We're making a few updates and we'll be back shortly!"
Twitter user @_s1ege, one of the Ghost Squad members behind the attack, told HackRead: "We targeted the Black Lives Matter Movement. We have been watching several members of their movement hold racist signs and attack innocent individuals over cultural appropriation while speaking English.
"I, s1ege, started this operation after attacking the KKK [because] I realised the individuals in the Black Lives Matter movement were acting no better – some even promote genocide of the Caucasian race. This will not be tolerated. What angered me and the other members of Ghost Squad was that the leaders also do not speak on this topic. This was not the dream of Martin Luther King Jr, and should not be supported or promoted by any movement. All Lives Matter!"
The debate around Black Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter movement was formed in the US in 2013 in response to public outrage over the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was accused of second-degree murder over the shooting of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. The movement gained even more momentum following the deaths of two more African Americans,Michael Brown and Eric Garner, spawning widespread protests and riots in Ferguson and New York.
The movement's aim is to address and highlight racial profiling and racial inequality in the US. There are now over 23 chapters of the movement across the US, Canada and Ghana.
However, some people in the US have responded to the Black Lives Matter movement by countering it with the phrase "#AllLivesMatter" on Twitter and offline, because they claim that all lives are equally at risk. This view has been heavily criticised by many in the media.
The phrase was used by supporters of Donald Trump to challenge black protesters at a Trump rally in Alabama in November 2015. In February 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was forced to send out an internal memo rebuking his employees after some individuals crossed out handwritten "Black Lives Matter" phrases written on company walls and replaced them with "All Lives Matter".
The Anonymous hacking collective is large and often disorganised, but one of the group's main aims in recent years has been to fight against racism. In November 2015, the hacking collective made good on its threats and released a full list of names, aliases and social media profiles for 1,000 people alleged to be Ku Klux Klan (KKK) sympathisers. On 25 April, Ghost Squad took the official KKK website down with a DDoS attack.