ISIS ‘still evading detection on Facebook’, report says

ISIS logo on a phone

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According to a new report, Facebook accounts linked to the Islamic State group (ISIS) are still finding ways to circumvent the detection on the social media platform.

A network’s tactics included mixing its material with actual news content, such as the release of recorded TV news and BBC News themed music.

He also hijacked Facebook accounts and published video tutorials to teach other jihadists how to do it.

Facebook said it had “no tolerance for terrorist propaganda”.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), which led the study, monitored 288 Facebook accounts linked to a particular ISIS network for three months.

The group behind them was able to take advantage of the gaps in automated and manual moderation systems on Facebook to generate tens of thousands of views of their material.

Facebook claimed that most of them have been removed.

It was also discovered that networks of ISIS supporters are plotting, preparing and launching “raids” on other Facebook pages, including those belonging to US military and political leaders.

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The comments section of Donald Trump’s Facebook page was also targeted

ISD researchers say they watched in real time as instructions were sent to followers to flood the comment sections of the sites with terrorist material.

An attack targeted U.S. President Trump’s Facebook page with fake African American accounts. Another posted images of the September 11, 2001 attack on the pages of the United States Department of Defense and Air Force Academy, along with the messages.

“Digital territory”

On April 7, a series of Twitter accounts started sending links to a Facebook Watch party.

All accounts used the phrase “Fuouaris Upload”, a reference to medieval Islamic warriors.

DSI researchers say this was part of a coordinated attempt to “accumulate digital territory” on Facebook.

The network has shared video content that has received tens of thousands of views and has extended to other platforms with links to Telegram, WhatsApp, independent ISIS websites and SoundCloud.

  • Dozens of banned TikTok accounts for IS videos
  • Apps are fine if terror persists for an hour

The researchers believe that at the center of the network there was a user who managed about a third (90 out of 288) of Facebook profiles.

Sometimes, this user boasted of having 100 “warrior” accounts, saying, “Delete an account and replace it with 10 others.”

This was accomplished by generating real North American phone numbers and looking for associated Facebook accounts.

If it finds a match, it would require a reset code to be sent to the phone number, so that it can block the original account holder and use the Facebook profile to spread the content.

Fuzzy logos

The researchers say that another key to the survival of the ISIS content on the platform was the way in which ISIS advocates learned to modify their content to evade controls.

This included:

  • Break the text and use strange punctuation to escape any tool that searches for keywords
  • Blurring of the ISIS brand or addition of Facebook video effects
  • Branded main news channels added on top of ISIS content

Facebook has tried to develop ways to avoid deleting the mainstream news content that contains extracts from ISIS material, and this was an attempt to take advantage of it.

In one case, an ISIS video was uploaded, but with 30 seconds of the France 24 news channel as an introduction before 49 minutes of the ISIS Iraq video.

In another case, a remix of a BBC News jingle with a pop song that became popular during the Coronavirus epidemic was used to mask ISIS content.

The researchers found that 70% of the “Fuouaris Upload” accounts were removed during the nearly three-month period.

But the network adapted and survived relatively easily by switching between accounts.

As the accounts were deleted, members of the network publicly made fun of Facebook for not understanding how they could operate on the platform.

Followers and friends of major Facebook accounts included supporters of a number of different language groups, including the Albanian, Turkish, Somali, Ethiopian and Indonesian communities.

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This video was found on an Indonesian-language account

The researchers say these reports do not appear to be as heavily moderated as the ISIS accounts in Arabic and English.

On an Indonesian account, the researchers found a video, set in a kitchen, with a man in a balaclava explaining how to create explosives using household items.

The video has been viewed 89 times and shared through 41 other Indonesian and Arabic accounts and marked on Facebook.

‘Internal operation’

“Our report is about the evasive behavior of accounts that support ISIS on Facebook,” said report author Moustafa Ayad.

“It is a dive into the inner workings of a singular terrorism support network, connected to many others through the platform.

“The tactics that we outline in our relationship are changing as we speak. Without a clear understanding of these networks and their behaviors, the responses that depend on the culls do little to repress the expansion of ISIS support through our primary platforms. ”

ISD says that Facebook’s automatic and manual detection systems need to be updated, with proactive investigations of recidivist accounts and their connections to other accounts on the platform.

He says the platform needs to review account security protocols and how these security measures are actively subverted by users.

In response to the research, a Facebook spokesman told ISD: “We have already removed more than 250 accounts referred to in the ISD report and are reviewing the remaining 30 accounts based on our policies.

“We do not tolerate terrorist propaganda on our platform and we remove content and accounts that violate our policy as soon as we identify them.”

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