Dropbox and Microsoft exploited by ISIS for propaganda campaigns launched on RocketChat

Counter-extremism researcher reveals terrorists are targeting cloud services platforms

HFE450 Still image taken from an ISIS propaganda video showing the Islamic State militants firing automatic weapons during a firefight outside Mosul December 2, 2016 near Nineveh, Iraq.

ISIS has been using RocketChat and online services from companies such as Dropbox and Microsoft to host its propaganda, according to a monitoring group.

Videos purportedly showing bomb attacks by the terrorist group were posted on the sites.

The first, on January 24, showed the Egyptian military transporting two bulldozers, which ISIS claimed it had damaged in Sinai.

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) think tank has been monitoring ISIS and far-right propaganda across social media sites. The report said that the video was spread more widely through a number of file-sharing sites.

“Links to the video were spread via RocketChat,” the latest CEP report said. The researchers found "at least eight websites" – File.Fm, Streamable, PixelDrain, Top4top, Dropbox, the Microsoft One Drive, the Internet Archive, and Mega.Nz – had then been used as platforms to distribute the materials.

It has also identified ISIS propaganda on podcasting platform Spreaker.

However, the specific material tracked by the CEP only appeared to remain hosted on some of the services for a limited amount of time. “Four days later, the video was only available on two websites: Top4top and the Internet Archive.”

On January 27 another video was released on RocketChat by ISIS-affiliated Amaq News, allegedly showing an attack against a vehicle near al-Hasakah in Syria.

“It was located on Streamable approximately 24 hours after it was posted to the website,” the CEP said.

ISIS is not the only extremist group to target alternative platforms, as the CEP has identified white supremacist material on Telegram.

Telegram became popular among terrorist groups following a crackdown by mainstream platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

European crime agencies have been working with Telegram to remove more inappropriate content and in the past month more than 50 pieces of far-right propaganda have been removed.

It has led some groups to post warnings to their followers.

“A white supremacist chat poster stated that Telegram was no longer safe and that Matrix, a decentralised and open-source platform, would provide greater information security and encryption,” the CEP said.

However, on Saturday a 55-minute video was posted on Telegram by Al Qaeda’s Somali affiliate Al Shabab Al Mujahideen documenting the preparations for a raid it conducted on the US military base at Camp Simba near Manda Bay, Kenya, on January 5, 2020, in which three Americans were killed and several aircraft were destroyed.

It showed a meeting between Al Shabab leader Abu Ubaydah Ahmad Omar and the attackers, as well as training and preparations for the raid, final messages from the attackers and drone footage of the raid in progress, according to The Middle East Media Research Institute.

Nations have been taking measures to tackles online extremism following fears children could be more vulnerable during global lockdowns.

In its latest report, the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate said it had observed an increase in the online radicalisation of children and warned countries to be alert.

Countries have reduced their funding of counter-terrorism initiatives because of the pandemic, the monitoring group said, and as a result less attention was being given to dangerous individuals.

Last November, the UAE and US anti-extremism centre, the Sawab Centre, launched a campaign to combat terrorist ideologies online.

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