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ISIS Devotees Run to Telegram after being Pushed from Twitter

Realizing the power of Social Media, unfazed ISIS members arr taking to Telegram

ISIS group members with their flag. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
ISIS group members with their flag. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Driven from Twitter by tougher anti-terror regulations, Islamic State and its followers have increasingly turned to private messaging app Telegram.

And Western nations have more than taken notice.

With millions of IS loyalists communicating with one another on Telegram and spreading their message of radical Islam and extremism, France and Germany last week said that they want a continent wide effort to allow for a crackdown on Telegram.

“Encrypted communications among terrorists constitute a challenge during investigations,” France and Germany said in a statement. “Solutions must be found to enable effective investigation… while at the same time protecting the digital privacy of citizens by ensuring the availability of strong encryption.”

French and German officials said they will soon bring the issue up to EU leaders after IS extremists reportedly used Telegram to plan recent attacks.

In recent days, after Twitter said it shut down more than 300,000 accounts suspected of spreading extremism ideology, IS followers have become more virulent on Telegram, analysts say.

On private Telegram channels, IS followers have laid out detailed plans to poison Westerners and conduct bombing attacks, reports say.

Telegram, which has over 100 million users, says it does not allow extremism-related activities on its public access channels but does not monitor private chat which is designed to be encrypted and secret.

“Telegram is the best available option [for IS] as tracking down users and groups on it could be very hard,” said Mohammed Reza Jamshid, a computer security analyst in Iran.

Before Twitter had shut down accounts that promoted terrorism, it had become an easy platform for IS followers and fighters to exchange information publicly and recruit new members.

A recent Rand Corporation study of 23 million tweets in Arabic and found that IS supporters averaged 50 percent more tweets than opponents on a typical day.

“Migrating from Twitter was the only option for IS bloggers as they are squeezed from all sides,” said analyst Jamshid said.

IS began using Telegram to disseminate its propaganda in September 2015, shortly after Telegram announced a new feature called “Channels” that helps users connect anonymously.

“The Telegram app is completely encrypted, which means no fear of someone monitoring your correspondence and understanding what it means,” said Alon Arvatz, co-founder and vice president of Insights, an information technology company. “That’s why IS moved from traditional social media to Telegram over the last year.”

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“Encrypted communications among terrorists constitute a challenge for security agents,” said Michael S. Smith, a U.S-based counterterrorism analyst. “It can be much more difficult for authorities to track Islamic State activities on Telegram than Twitter.”

“In addition, Islamic State propagandists can use Telegram to push out much lengthier micro blog posts than on Twitter, as well as to distribute propaganda without relying on other sites to host it,” he said

But for IS, Telegram has some downsides since it was easier for the militant group to recruit followers using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

“IS recruiters and propagandists are all aware of this fact, so they heavily emphasize that [its] Telegram supporters should be creating new accounts on Twitter,” said J.M. Berger, a fellow at George Washington University’s program on extremism.

Steve Stalinsky, an expert on Middle East terrorist activities on the internet, said “There is a lot of cross-pollination — groups and individuals operate and disseminate the same content on both Twitter and Telegram.”

“These accounts constantly refer and link users to the ones on other platforms,” he added.

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Facebook, Twitter Urged to Do More to Police Hate on Sites

Twitter to soon release Snapchat like feature. VOA
Twitter starts the initiative #BloodMatters. VOA

Tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google are taking steps to police terrorists and hate groups on their sites, but more work needs to be done, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Tuesday.

The organization released its annual digital terrorism and hate report card and gave a B-plus to Facebook, a B-minus to Twitter and a C-plus to Google.

Facebook spokeswoman Christine Chen said the company had no comment on the report. Representatives for Google and Twitter did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

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Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay
Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said Facebook in particular built “a recognition that bad folks might try to use their platform” as its business model. “There is plenty of material they haven’t dealt with to our satisfaction, but overall, especially in terms of hate, there’s zero tolerance,” Cooper said at a New York City news conference.

Rick Eaton, a senior researcher at the Wiesenthal Center, said hateful and violent posts on Instagram, which is part of Facebook, are quickly removed, but not before they can be widely shared.

He pointed to Instagram posts threatening terror attacks at the upcoming World Cup in Moscow. Another post promoted suicide attacks with the message, “You only die once. Why not make it martyrdom.”

Cooper said Twitter used to merit an F rating before it started cracking down on Islamic State tweets in 2016. He said the move came after testimony before a congressional committee revealed that “ISIS was delivering 200,000 tweets a day.”

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This photo shows Facebook launched on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass., June 19, 2017. VOA

Cooper and Eaton said that as the big tech companies have gotten more aggressive in shutting down accounts that promote terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism, promoters of terrorism and hate have migrated to other sites such as, a Facebook lookalike that’s based in Russia.

There also are “alt-tech” sites like GoyFundMe, an alternative to GoFundMe, and BitChute, an alternative to Google-owned YouTube, Cooper said.

“If there’s an existing company that will give them a platform without looking too much at the content, they’ll use it,” he said. “But if not, they are attracted to those platforms that have basically no rules.”

The Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center is dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, hate, and terrorism. (VOA)