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April 26, 2012 0

Jihadists Solicit Help Online to Craft Their Message

The Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), an umbrella orga­ni­za­tion that dis­trib­utes videos, lit­er­a­ture and other mes­sages for Al Qaeda and other ter­ror­ist groups, has appar­ently posted a sub­mis­sion form on Google’s blog ser­vice solic­it­ing “par­tic­i­pa­tion, com­ments or sug­ges­tions” for its propaganda.

The form includes instruc­tions in both Eng­lish and Ara­bic for con­tact­ing the group, with reminders not to “men­tion your real name, address..etc. [sic]” and to include an email address “so we can reply to you.” The page also includes instruc­tions for send­ing encrypted messages.

GIMF’s call for “par­tic­i­pa­tion” not only demon­strates the con­tin­u­ing effort by Jihadist pro­pa­gan­dists to exploit main­stream social media plat­forms to com­mu­ni­cate with poten­tial fol­low­ers (Al Shabaab, for exam­ple, started using Twit­ter in Decem­ber 2011), but also how Jihadist media enti­ties con­tinue to rely on the skills and efforts of indi­vid­ual fol­low­ers to help craft their message.

For exam­ple, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Peninsula’s English-language mag­a­zine Inspire reg­u­larly encour­ages read­ers to con­tribute arti­cles, quotes and images. It has also pro­vided con­tact infor­ma­tion for read­ers “inter­ested in con­tribut­ing to this mag­a­zine with any skills – be it writ­ing, research, edit­ing or advice” and sug­gested that indi­vid­u­als use the same encryp­tion pro­gram ref­er­enced by GIMF “in order to avoid detec­tion from the intel­li­gence ser­vices [sic].”

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, accused of attempt­ing to det­o­nate a vehi­cle he believed was laden with explo­sives at an Ore­gon Christ­mas tree light­ing cer­e­mony in 2010, is an exam­ple of some­one who responded to such solic­i­ta­tions. Not only did he allegedly write and send an arti­cle to Inspire (which was not pub­lished), he also sub­mit­ted pieces that were pub­lished in Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions, the self-described “first Eng­lish Jihad mag­a­zine” released by a col­lab­o­ra­tion of online ter­ror­ist sym­pa­thiz­ers, includ­ing Samir Khan. Khan pro­duced Inspire up until he was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Sep­tem­ber 2011 in Yemen.

Oth­ers have taken it upon them­selves to cre­ate jihadist pro­pa­ganda with­out nec­es­sar­ily uti­liz­ing estab­lished ter­ror­ist media out­lets, rely­ing on inter­net forums and other social media for dis­tri­b­u­tion of their mate­ri­als. For exam­ple, an April 2012 image of the New York sky­line with the mes­sage “Al Qaeda Com­ing Soon Again in New York” attracted wide­spread media atten­tion and prompted enhanced law enforce­ment vig­i­lance. The image, appar­ently cre­ated by an indi­vid­ual mem­ber of a jihadist forum, demon­strated the pro­pa­ganda value that can be cre­ated by indi­vid­u­als using com­mer­cially avail­able software.

While these mes­sages may lack the cachet of a “brand name” pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted by GIMF and sim­i­lar ter­ror­ist media pro­duc­ers, the mate­ri­als still attract atten­tion, cre­ate fear and encour­age oth­ers to play an active role in the cre­ation of pro­pa­ganda in sup­port of terror.

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