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

Researchers say they identified 50,000 Instagram accounts used by Daesh supporters (Shutterstock)
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.”
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.”

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