21 Aug 2014

Islamic State in overdrive to keep propaganda network online

Islamic State is distributing a document seen by Channel 4 News which explains how to avoid being excluded from social media.

The video showing the murder of James Foley is still easily accessible online despite websites removing copies of it and dozens of Twitter profiles suspended.

The blocking of accounts linked to Islamic State (IS) militants has led supporters of the group to rapidly distribute a strategy document seen by Channel 4 News that explains how the group intends to keep its propaganda network online.

IS relies heavily on social media as a recruitment tool to quickly distribute statements, images and videos.

‘Invasion of cyberspace’

The IS document explains the best practices and best websites to help IS achieve its aims of sharing news, images and videos and how Islamic State intends to also get the message out offline.

The document outlines a two-pronged approach. First, it explains a five-step plan for the “invasion of cyberspace”, followed by a second process to target mosques, universities and schools with the same messages.

It proposes a strategy of “steering supporters to other social networking sites with Twitter” adding that Russian social network VK is “a strong candidate for the invasion”.

The document, written in Arabic and titled Practical steps to respond to the closure of the accounts of supporters of #IslamicState on Twitter, has been tweeted and shared on Facebook 350 times and viewed more than 1,200 times since being uploaded to the Justpaste.it website on Wednesday.

Justpaste.it enables users to share documents online, and has proven such a popular tool with IS supporters that its administrator has already been contacted by the Metropolitan Police.

Officers asked that illegal content be removed, which the site agreed to, according to the Guardian.

But the site is still being used today to upload graphics images and in-depth guides, and other IS supporters are providing their own guides to aid the social media propaganda war.

In a series of 33 tweets in the past day, one IS-linked Twitter account under the name Hathifa Ansari provides a guide to distributing messages to multiple social media platforms simultaneously using a website called Zapier. “Zapier makes it easy to automate tasks between web apps”, the company’s website explains.

Zapier would enable one IS militant to post hundreds of messages each day to dozens of accounts, and thus evade official attempts to shut down the accounts.

The user who uploaded this guide also wrote the Twitter status: “Mr President, you may be next.”

The social media strategy has echoes of one of Islamic State’s overarching treaties called “Management of Savagery”, which focuses on the importance of provoking military response in order to recruit and train fighters.

Activities on other platforms

Accounts linked to IS on seemingly impenetrable social media platforms such as Diaspora have also been suspended or deleted.

The decentralised social network Diaspora was thought to not be subject to being taken down as easily as more prominent accounts, as it has no central authority, but is controlled through independent “pods” run without central control or authorization.

But even IS-linked accounts on that site have now been removed.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for violence and other hate speech, so we delete any accounts which have been reported as violating these terms,” an independent Diaspora administrator of one of these ‘pods’ told BuzzFeed.

A female jihadi by the name of Maryam, first identified by Channel 4 News, has gloated on Twitter that she wants to be the first female “executioner”.

A tweet from her account, which is still online, reads: “UK must b shaking up haha. I wna b da 1st UK woman 2 kill a UK or US terorrist!”

Police and security services across the world are still trying to ascertain the identity of the man known as “John”, who is alleged to be the ringleader of a group of three or four British jihadists with IS in Syria or Iraq who are said to specialise in hostage-taking and negotiations, and who is suspected of being the murderer of James Foley.