Social media platforms allow blacklisted extremists to use accounts

Investigation found blacklisted terror financier Abd Al Rahman bin Umayr Al Nuaymi on social media

An image posted on social media shows Abd Al Rahman bin Umayr Al Nuaymi at a wedding.
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Social media giants have been criticised for allowing sanctioned terrorists to use their platforms, including a Qatari who allegedly gave Al Qaeda £1.6 million (Dh7.37m) a month.

Counter terrorism experts are warning social media companies to make more stringent checks after a "simple" investigation using the United Nation's sanctions list of known extremists uncovered evidence of both ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists having accounts.

A fifth of the entities on the UN's designated terror list, checked in a random sample by researchers at the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), had profiles on mainstream sites including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

One of the profiles belonged to major terror financier, Abdulrahman Al Nuaimi, who was blacklisted in 2014.

Al Nuaimi, who once served as president of the Qatar Football Association, is accused of funnelling £1.6m a month to Al Qaeda. He also founded the Eid Charity which was designated by the Gulf states in 2017 for funding terrorism.

Another was former Yemeni governor Naif Salih Salim Al Qaisi who was sanctioned for financing Al Qaeda, planning their military operations in Yemen and for financing terror training camps.

Dr Hans-Jakob Schindler, who leads the global work of the Monitoring Team for ISIS and Al Qaeda for the United Nations Security Council, says terrorists look to social media to finance themselves and has urged companies to do more to stop them.

“We at CEP did a basic test, using the global sanction list from the UN, which contains over 380 entities. We took 42 of the listed entities to see if they had profiles, there were about a dozen profiles connected to them,” he said.

“If we can find these doing a simple search, any major company can.

“We notified the companies and Facebook removed them within a couple of days, YouTube a couple of weeks later. As most of these entities were in the public domain and notorious, as our test shows, there is room for improvement.”

'Funding death and destruction'

Dr Schindler says firms need to be “more proactive”, especially with regards to those who have been publicly “named and shamed” on the sanctions list.

“Giving individuals and entities involved in terror financing access to major social media platforms is a high-risk endeavour,” CEP said.

“These terror financiers may potentially leverage social media sites to circumvent sanctions and continue their activities in funding death and destruction.”

Social media companies have vowed to tackle the issue.

Last year Facebook expanded its specialist monitoring team to 350 people following the live streaming of the far right shootings at two mosques in Christchurch.

“Our detection techniques include content matching, which allows us to identify copies of known bad material, and machine-learning classifiers that identify and examine a wide range of factors on a post and assess whether it’s likely to violate our policies,” it said.

“To date, we have identified a wide range of groups as terrorist organisations based on their behaviour, not their ideologies, and we do not allow them to have a presence on our services.

“We know that bad actors will continue to attempt to skirt our detection with more sophisticated efforts and we are committed to advancing our work and sharing our progress.”

Facebook has removed more than 26 million pieces of content related to ISIS and Al Qaeda in the last two years.

Facebook has not responded to a request for comment on the case.