Daesh supporters using Instagram ‘stories’ to spread propaganda, report reveals

Researchers say they identified 50,000 Instagram accounts used by Daesh supporters (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 September 2017
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Daesh supporters using Instagram ‘stories’ to spread propaganda, report reveals

DUBAI: With Facebook, YouTube and Twitter cracking down on terrorists using their platforms to spread militant propaganda, tens of thousands of Daesh supporters have turned to the photo-sharing app Instagram.
According to a report in The Times newspaper, more than 50,000 accounts have been identified as militants.
Daesh supporters are using the Instagram “stories” feature to spread their messages of terror, the report added, citing a major analysis.
According to the research, at least 10,000 of the Instagram accounts identified had “extremely strong links” to the militant group. The research revealed that these people were followed by official Daesh accounts and approximately 30 percent of the content they posted was Daesh-related.
The revelation comes after various European leaders at the UN general assembly in New York this week threatened Google, Facebook and other social media giants with fines if they failed to remove extremist content within two hours.
In the past Daesh supporters used mainstream social media, but experts say they have turned to the likes of Instagram, where content only remains for a short time.
The analytics group Ghost Data studied 50,000 Instagram accounts with Daesh links and found that the story telling feature was being used to promote their propaganda, the report added.
The Times report revealed that it had been shown videos of children waving the Daesh banner and an image of a decapitated male corpse with the word “kafir,” meaning non-believer.
Neil Doyle, a writer on Islamist terrorism told the newspaper using another name for Daesh: “Islamic State propaganda regularly includes releases which comprise of a set of images to tell a story and Instagram is ideal for that. These might include pictures showing scenes on farms of crops being harvested or engineers maintaining electricity, or perhaps roads being repaired.
“They might show fighters in a battle or show scenes of a public execution. They are designed to convey the impression that (Daesh) is a functioning state that can care for the population and defend them. The pictures are often highly misleading, however, and invariably paint areas it controls as paradise on earth.”
He explained that in the wake of the recent efforts by Facebook and Twitter to remove militant content Daesh supporters were using smaller platforms to spread their messages.
Meanwhile Snapchat is becoming the platform of choice for militants in Syria, looking to recruit overseas and communicate on the ground.
But a question mark remains over why the encrypted messaging app, Telegram was not represented at talks held at the UN this week. Apparently the Russian-owned platform was invited, but did not attend.
There were 9,000 channels removed from Telegram in August because of connections to Daesh.
Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, told The Times: “It is crazy to have this conversation without placing Telegram front and center of the conversation, because if you strip away the rhetoric the reality is this: Islamic State supporters don’t use Twitter or YouTube like they used to — Telegram is their new center of gravity.”
In a statement Instagram said: “There is no place for terrorists, terrorist propaganda, or the praising of terror activity on Instagram, and we work aggressively to remove content or an account as soon as we become aware of it.”
And a spokesman for Snap, the parent company of Snapchat said: “We abhor terrorism and it should never have a voice on Snapchat. We work with law enforcement and NGOs to fight terrorism and remove it from our service.”


Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

Updated 19 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

  • Broadcast of political messages in coverage forbidden, analyst confirms.
  • Saudi football federation urges FIFA to sanction the Doha-owned channel.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has a justified case in complaining to FIFA over the “politicization” of the World Cup by the Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports, a prominent TV analyst has said.
A flurry of comments by hosts and pundits aired on BeIN’s Arabic station prompted the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to complain to FIFA this week, saying the broadcaster was using the football tournament to spread political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
In its complaint, the federation called on FIFA to take severe sanctions against the Qatari channel and to abolish the rights granted to the network.
One BeIN commentator accused Saudi Arabia of “selling out the Palestinian cause,” while a Doha-based international footballer invited on the channel was allowed to call for an end to the year-long boycott of Qatar by neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.
Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, principal TV research analyst at IHS Markit Technology, said that politicized coverage was expressly forbidden by world football’s governing body as well as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
“FIFA and UEFA forbid the transmission of political messages during football matches for which they control the rights. It’s not only comments by the broadcasters — but even banners; everything (political) is forbidden,” the analyst told Arab News.
“So messages about Palestine, about political things, are not allowed.”
Papavassilopoulos said that if there is evidence of such cases, authorities in the Kingdom would be justified in taking the matter to FIFA.
“If there are video clips that show BeIN media personnel speaking against Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia has a case,” he said.
But whether FIFA will take any action against BeIN is another matter. Papavassilopoulos pointed to the fact that BeIN is a valued client of FIFA — it bought the rights to host the World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa — and that Qatar plans to host the tournament in 2022.
“BeIN media is a very good client for FIFA. And don’t forget that Qatar is the country that will host the 2022 World Cup,” he said. “It’s going to be very very hard for FIFA to impose penalties on BeIN media knowing that Qatar will hold the next World Cup.”
Some of the biggest names in Arab sport have signed a petition to protest against BeIN’s politicization of World Cup coverage, urging FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate the coverage.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.