Researchers at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD) have discovered one of the largest collections of online material reportedly owned by the group calling itself Islamic State.
With an estimated 10,000 unique visitors a month, more than 90,000 items are contained in the digital library. This is one of the ways that extremist content on the net can be continuously replenished, say experts.
But since the data is not stored in one place, therefore it is difficult to take all of the data down.
And this cache of extremist material is growing despite counter-terrorism authorities in Britain and the US being informed and cautioned of this trove of content.
This discovery was made soon after the death of the prominent IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in October 2019. A short link was included in many of the social media posts at that time that supported the organization. That link as pursued by researchers to discover documents and videos present in nine different languages. The documents included details of attacks such as the one on Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017, the one in London on 7 July 2005 and in the US on 11 September 2001.
“[There’s] everything you need to know to plan and carry out an attack,” said ISD deputy director Moustafa Ayad, who discovered the archive. “Things that teach you how to be a better terrorist essentially.”
The Caliphate Cache is the name of the digital library as given by the ISD.
The manner in which the library evolves, the way it is managed and its visitors were examined closely for months by the institute’s researchers. And instead of a single computer server, the entire cache of data is spread across a decentralised system. The content can be shred by anyone on the web through servers based at multiple locations.
That is what makes it difficult to pull down the content.
But as long as the Caliphate Cache remains live, it aids IS by providing a means to continuously seed out content. The content is added to social-media comments pages and is spread through bot accounts.
Targeting Twitter accounts linked to celebrities and athletes is another technique used to spread the content. Material from the cache was promoted through the account of a fan of the pop singer Justin Bieber after it was hacked. And in another incident, the IS operators posed as a supporter of the English rugby team and fooled the account to follow it.
“They understand how not just to game platforms, they understand the power of the content that is contained within the Caliphate Cache,” Ayad said.
The researchers however also said all the content in the cache is not related to violence alone.
The philosophies of IS, religious texts and propaganda of the IS lifestyle are also included in the content in the cache.
Material runaway brides such as Shamima Begum would have seen in the cache, the researchers say.
(Adapted from BBC.com)