Month: August 2014

Dutch and Belgian Mujahideen Social Media Sites Relaunch

Author: Jeff R. Weyers,  IBRABO

Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrie Facebook and WordPress Pages

Abu Talha Al-Maghribi

Abu Talha Al-Maghribi Post on Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrie Facebook Site

In a follow up to our examination of De Basis – De Base in the Netherlands and Belgium featured on TRAC, this week iBRABO examines the relaunch of two Dutch/Belgian Mujahideen social media sites. The first, Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrië (Dutch Mujahideen in Syria), was originally created on Facebook in may 2013 and featured in a report on Dutch foreign fighters by Samar Batrawi (2014), but was subsequently torn down by Facebook.

NMIS link to As-Shaam Media

Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrie WordPress Site

De BanierSince then the site has relaunched on facebook on August 4th, 2014, and has cross-links to its wordpress site Al-Shaam Media which launched September 12th, 2013 (see image above). It claims to be the “Official Page of the Dutch Mujahideen in Syria”. Both sites feature stories of Dutch Mujahideen that have died fighting in the Syrian conflict, all of whom are believed to have been fighting with the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. On its wordpress site it also hosts a copy of De Banier (The Banner), a book written by Dutch mujahideen used as a recruiting tool to entice new fighters.

 

Nederlandse/Belgische Mujahideen In Shaam – Minbar Tawheed, Dawah & Jihad Facebook Page

Another site that has relaunched this past week is the  Nederlandse/Belgische Mujahideen In Shaam – Minbar Tawheed, Dawah & Jihad (see image below).

NBMIS Header

As with De Basis the primary point of interest for both these sites are in The Hague, Netherlands and Antwerp, Belgium. The primary demographic of interest being males 18-24 years of age (as obtained from Facebooks own analytics on both sites.

The Issue of Extremist Social Media Sites Re-Launching

One issue that all of the social media sites have been struggling with is the relaunch of extremist and terrorist sites on their platforms. The nature of their design leaves them open to abuse by terrorist and extremist groups. ISIS in fact has learned methods for hiding their sites from the traditional markers that may lead to them being removed. They have done this to some extent through pseudo naming conventions and abbreviated wordings that would be missed by the typical searches. One example of this is Is_IraQ and Levant which actually has its largest following in Jakarta, Indonesia by males aged 25-34. On this site we also see the use of foreign martyrs like Andre Poulin from Canada to assist in the recruiting message (see below).

abu muslim

Post Featuring Abu Muslim (Andre Poulin) on IS_Iraq and Levant Facebook Site

This is an area that will no doubt require further research and co-operation by corporations, academics and practitioners in order to reduce the use of social media by extremist groups.

Radicalization 2.0 : Examining Methods for Identifying Persons at Risk of Recruitment to Violent Extremism on Social Media

With the Society for Terrorism Research (STR) 8th Annual International Conference fast approaching, STR, partnered with the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies (CTSS), is launching a series of guest blog posts, written by those who will be presenting their research at STR14. In the seventh installment of this series Jeff Weyers and Professor Jon Cole discuss their work applying the structured professional judgment tool known as the Identifying Vulnerable Persons (IVP) to extremist activity on social media. Jeff Weyers and Prof. Jon Cole are working on this project as members of the University of Liverpool Tactical Decision Making Research Group.

Author: Jeff R. Weyers and Dr. Jon Cole

Infamously in Al-Qaeda’s first online issue of Inspire magazine, one of the articles that was included was a piece called, “Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom”.   The release by Al-Qaeda was significant for several reasons,  it was the first time a terrorist group had created a professionally produced e-magazine. It also demonstrated a realization by Al-Qaeda that social media would be key to its ability to recruit, fund raise and spread propaganda in the future. In fact around that same time (in 2009 and 2010) many terrorist groups including Al-Shabab, Hezbollah, Hamas, Babbar Khalsa, and the International Sikh Youth Federation were all transitioning to social media platforms . Part of the reason for this transition was in part due to increasing stresses on  traditional forms of hosting information on websites. Terrorist websites are frequently torn down by government agencies and targeted for Denial of Service (DNS) attacks by governments and hackers. This often would require terrorist organizations to change service providers and re-create their websites on foreign servers requiring money, time and technical resources. Alternatively social media platforms by their design are more resilient to such attacks. Their servers are better protected, their services are free and anyone can setup a site in minutes. These services also are also incredibly efficient at the “social” aspect of social media. If we look at recent examples like the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) on Facebook and Twitter, we see that they have been able to develop thousand of followers for their sites within hours of going operational.

Islamic State Page on Facebook and Twitter

Islamic State Page on Facebook and Twitter

In this context, the key question for law enforcement and intelligence agencies is reducing the signal to noise ratio in the online world. As part of the solution, in 2009 we were asked to come up with a structured professional judgment tool to assist in the early identification of persons at risk of engaging in violent extremism as part of the PREVENT strategy. After examining a sample of UK and European violent extremists, 16 criteria were identified that could be used to assist in identifying persons at various stages on the path to violent extremism. This structured professional judgment tool is known as the Identifying Vulnerable Persons (IVP) guidance. Since then we have applied the IVP tool against a sample of over 600 post hoc cases representing virtually every known terrorist group. As the IVP is ideologically neutral it works as well with the IRA as it does with ISIS or even ELF.

Why willyou want to see what we’ve done?

Going back to our discussion about social media, with all of the terrorist groups creating sites on social media it was the perfect opportunity to test the IVP tool against de novo cases online. Here you had virtually every terror group with a platform on social media and thousands of individuals at varying stages of extremism. So taking theses samples we attempted to determine to what extent we could identify persons at risk and were surprised to find that there were in fact hundreds of individuals displaying activities that would be of concern to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Sometimes this simply meant they were engaged with known recruiters of terrorists groups, sometimes actual threats were made, in other instances individuals were seen with weapons while on these sites.

extremist profile

The secondary by-product of this research has included numerous criminal investigations, seizures of weapons, identification of terror cells, deportations of terrorist leaders, identification of terrorist charities and the removal of countless terrorist social media pages. So whilst identification of those ‘at risk’ of engaging in violent extremism is fraught with problems there is clear evidence that there are ways of overcoming those problems.

Ideally conferences like this allow for practitioners and academics to “show what they got” in terms of new methods for capturing, analyzing and working with data. The goal however is that we both can learn from each other and find unique ways for resolving uncommon problems.  Our thanks to the selection committee for inviting us to talk.

Jeff Weyers and Jon Cole ( Tactical Decision Making Research Unit, University of Liverpool). Applying the Identifying Vulnerable People (IVP) guidance: Social media and web 2.0

 

 

 

 

Hezbollah Launches New Facebook Site Targeting Brazil and Latin America

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Author: Jeff R. Weyers, iBRABO.com

In an attempt to capitalize on growing support in Latin America, Hezbollah has launched a new facebook page targeting Brazil and other Latin American countries. Facebook analytics for the page (below) indicate that the largest support for the page has been in Buenes Aires thus far.

Hezbollah Brasil Latin America FB Page Analytics

An Official Representative in Rio de Janeiro?

On the about page for Hezbollah Brasil they even list their contact information (seen below).hezbollah Office in Brasil

 

 

Canadian Used as Poster Child for Jihad in the New Release of Dabiq Magazine by ISIS

Author: Jeff R. Weyers, IBRABO.com

Dabiq Issue 2

Dabiq Issue 2 Spread

The July 28th release of Dabiq Magazine by the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) features a number of foreign fighters killed in battle including Canadian Andre Poulin. Where as the first issue of Dabiq appeared to focus on the establishment of the Islamic State and its legitimacy, this issue appears to focus on its accomplishments and next steps. The magazine issued by ALHAYAT media center is just the latest in a well organized advertising campaign by the Islamic State.

Dabiq Issue 2 Andre Poulin

Andre Poulin a native of Timmins, Ontario, Canada, has been used in numerous promotional materials by ISIS in their recruitment efforts. The group has placed him on their social media platforms, recruitment videos and now their flagship magazine. For ISIS Poulin represents a key target audience that they have been slowly building throughout western countries.