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May 20, 2016 0

ADL Alerts Service Providers to Hezbollah Presence on Their Platforms

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, speaking on al-Manar television

Has­san Nas­ral­lah, the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of Hezbol­lah, speak­ing on al-Manar television

UPDATE: 5/20/16 — Face­book & Insta­gram have removed the accounts iden­ti­fied in this blog.

Al-Manar, the media wing of Hezbol­lah, has long broad­cast ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda dis­guised as news to the Arab speak­ing world. After being dropped by two of the largest satel­lite providers in the Ara­bic speak­ing world, Arab­Sat (which dropped the chan­nel in Decem­ber 2015) and Nile­Sat (which dropped the chan­nel in April 2016), Hezbol­lah is rely­ing increas­ingly on online plat­forms to main­tain its viewer base. As a result, removal of al-Manar pres­ence from online plat­forms at this time has the poten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly dis­rupt the group’s reach and impact.

Al-Manar, des­ig­nated by the U.S. State Depart­ment as a Spe­cially Des­ig­nated Global Ter­ror­ist Entity, cur­rently has offi­cial pres­ence on a num­ber of U.S.-based social media and web plat­forms, most of which are linked from al-Manar’s offi­cial web­site. ADL has alerted the com­pa­nies to the group’s presence.

ADL reg­u­larly alerts Inter­net com­pa­nies to ter­ror­ist exploita­tion of their ser­vices, and most com­pa­nies quickly remove the con­tent when alerted. We have informed the rel­e­vant com­pa­nies of these exam­ples of Hezbol­lah use of their plat­forms and antic­i­pate that they will remove the con­tent once again.

Twit­ter

Al-Manar has an offi­cial Twit­ter han­dle, @almanarnews, which can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar web­site. The account appears to have been cre­ated in July 2010, and has upwards of 334,000 fol­low­ers. Accord­ing to the page descrip­tion, “Al-Manar web­site News and pro­grams. Al-Manar TV is con­sid­ered the tele­vi­sion of the Lebanese resis­tance against the Israeli occu­pa­tion.” The descrip­tion also includes a link to live stream­ing of al-Manar broad­casts on the al-Manar website.

Most of the Tweets on the al-Manar Twit­ter feed include state­ments pro­mot­ing vio­lence against the U.S., Israel, and other enti­ties Hezbol­lah con­sid­ers to be its ene­mies. It also fea­tures state­ments and speeches of Has­san Nas­ral­lah, the head of Hezbollah.

Spe­cific exam­ples of Tweets include one Tweet from May 18, 2016 that stated,“The Amer­i­can pres­ence is an occu­pa­tion that must be fought against,” one Tweet from Octo­ber 8, 2015 with an image show­ing a stabbed Israeli civil­ian and a mis­lead­ing cap­tion that reads: “an Israeli sol­dier stabbed in occu­pied Jerusalem;” and a link to an arti­cle that praises stab­bing attacks against Israelis. Another Tweet from Jan­u­ary 28, 2016 states, “The mis­siles of the Resis­tance (Hezbol­lah) dis­turb Washington…[because] Israel’s safety comes first [for the U.S.].

 

An al-Manar Tweet showing a stabbed Israeli civilian. The caption reads, "an Israeli soldier stabbed in occupied Jerusalem"

An al-Manar Tweet show­ing a stabbed Israeli civil­ian. The cap­tion reads, “an Israeli sol­dier stabbed in occu­pied Jerusalem”

Face­book

Al-Manar has an offi­cial Face­book page titled al-Manar Chan­nel – the Offi­cial Page (in Ara­bic). The page can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar web­site and has over 4,000 fol­low­ers. The page dis­plays al-Manar’s offi­cial log and posts news about Hezbol­lah and links to live stream­ing of al-Manar television.

As on the Twit­ter feed, most of the posts on the al-Manar Face­book page include state­ments pro­mot­ing vio­lence against the U.S., Israel, and other enti­ties Hezbol­lah con­sid­ers to be its ene­mies, as well as Islamic extrem­ist views and state­ments and speeches by Has­san Nasrallah.

Spe­cific exam­ples of posts include a car­toon posted on May 18, 2016 depict­ing an Amer­i­can sol­dier sup­port­ing ISIS and a post encour­ag­ing stab­bing ter­ror­ist attacks in Israel with an image of a knife cov­ered with the Pales­tin­ian flag with the Ara­bic text stat­ing, “stab it in the heart of your enemy.”

A cartoon posted on al-Manar's Facebook page depicting a U.S. soldier supporting ISIS.

A car­toon posted on al-Manar’s Face­book page depict­ing a U.S. sol­dier sup­port­ing ISIS.

One of the posts, also dated May 18, 2016, includes an admis­sion of the group’s vio­la­tion of Facebook’s terms of ser­vice. It reads, “To our hon­or­able and beloved page vis­i­tors, no mat­ter how many pages they shut down. We will always be the voice of resis­tance which doesn’t know defeat or sub­mis­sion.  We invite you, oh you who love resis­tance, resis­tance fight­ers, and the leader of the resis­tance to stand right in the face of false­hood to call upon rel­a­tives and friends to actively par­tic­i­pate in this page, which thanks to God and thanks to your efforts you will con­tinue and win.”

Insta­gram 

Al-Manar has an offi­cial Insta­gram page called alma­narnews. The page has 873 fol­low­ers and can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar web­site. The page’s Arabic-language descrip­tion states, “Al-Manar web­site News and pro­grams,  al-Manar TV is con­sid­ered the tele­vi­sion of the Lebanese resis­tance against the  Israeli occu­pa­tion.” The descrip­tion also pro­vides a link for users to “watch the TV chan­nel broadcast.”

The Insta­gram page dis­plays the offi­cial logo of al-Manar and links to live stream­ing of the ter­ror­ist entity’s TV broadcast.

YouTube

Al-Manar has an offi­cial YouTube page called Al Manar Chan­nel 3. The page has 9,669 fol­low­ers and can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar web­site. The page descrip­tion calls it, “The offi­cial page of the Lebanese Media Group al-Manar channel-Lebanon.”

The YouTube page dis­plays the offi­cial logo of al-Manar and links to media mate­ri­als pro­duced by al-Manar. The chan­nel also has a live stream of the al-Manar TV sta­tion and includes posts and videos fea­tur­ing Hezbollah’s mil­i­tary operations.

What­sApp

Al-Manar has an offi­cial What­sApp ser­vice called Al-Manar chan­nel What­sApp ser­vice, which can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar web­site. The al-Manar What­sApp ser­vice page also links to other al-Manar social media accounts, includ­ing Face­book, Twit­ter and YouTube. The ser­vice pro­vides sub­scrip­tion options for groups of five or more peo­ple, or for individuals.

The al-Manar WhatsApp service

The al-Manar What­sApp service

ADL pre­vi­ously exposed Hezbol­lah use of What­sApp in 2014, includ­ing attempts by the group to inter­est World­Cup sup­port­ers in its ser­vices via WhatsApp.

Telegram

Al-Manar has an offi­cial Telegram chan­nel called alma­narnews, which has 17,538 fol­low­ers and is acces­si­ble via direct link from the al-Manar web­site. The chan­nel descrip­tion states that it is “The offi­cial account of al-Manar chan­nel on Telegram” and pro­vides a link for users to “watch the TV chan­nel broad­cast” on the al-Manar website.

The chan­nel dis­plays the offi­cial logo of al-Manar and links to posts and videos from the satel­lite station.

Posts on the chan­nel include exten­sive news about ter­ror attacks in Israel, includ­ing posts that read, “Occu­pied Pales­tine: The mar­tyr­dom of the one who exe­cuted the stab­bing oper­a­tion in Jerusalem,” and “The enemy’s media: an Israeli attacked in a stab­bing oper­a­tion in Israel.”

On May 20, AlMa­nar also launched two addi­tional Telegram chan­nels, called Alma­narnews­bot and Almanarnews_bot, pre­sum­ably as backup chan­nels in case their orig­i­nal chan­nel is removed from the plat­form. They have already begun to post news from the Alma­narnews­bot chan­nel, but the Almanarnews_bot chan­nel is inac­tive as of this posting.

Apps for mobile devices

In the past two weeks, ADL has dis­cov­ered and alerted plat­forms to the devel­op­ment of new apps that enable al-Manar stream­ing for mobile phones. These included an app on iTunes, which iTunes has since removed, and an app on Google Play. Al-manar sub­se­quently posted a state­ment on Twit­ter rec­om­mend­ing that its Apple users use Telegram to get news and alerts, rather than iTunes. There is rea­son to assume that Hezbol­lah will con­tinue attempt­ing to cre­ate new apps, as it has done mul­ti­ple times in the past.

Al-Manar's Tweet advising Apple users to switch to Telegram to receive news.

Al-Manar’s Tweet advis­ing Apple users to switch to Telegram to receive news.

ADL has con­sis­tently doc­u­mented Hezbollah’s cre­ation of apps for mobile devices and alerted plat­forms to their exis­tence each time. Infor­ma­tion on each of these instances is avail­able at the fol­low­ing links:

Hezbol­lah on Your IPhone: There’s an App for That (2012)

Hezbol­lah Re-Launches Apps; Blames ADL For Fail­ure Of Pre­vi­ous Effort (2012)

Hezbol­lah Mil­i­tary Branch Offers Free Pod­casts On iTunes (2013)

Hezbol­lah Is Still Try­ing To Broad­cast Mes­sages To Your Hand­held (2014)

Hezbol­lah Android App Re-Launched For The Third Time (2014)

ADL also reg­u­larly mon­i­tors online pres­ence and pro­pa­ganda by other ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing Hamas, ISIS and al Qaeda.

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September 22, 2014 0

ISIS-Related Arrest In Rochester Underscores Online Radicalization

mufid-elfgeeh-isis-rochester

Mufid Elfgeeh

The online activ­ity of Mufid Elfgeeh, whose arrest for attempt­ing to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port for ter­ror, attempt­ing to kill U.S. sol­diers, and pos­ses­sion of firearms and silencers was made pub­lic this week by the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice, under­scores the cen­tral­ity of the Inter­net in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion and recruit­ment process.

Elfgeeh uti­lized mul­ti­ple online plat­forms includ­ing Twit­ter, Face­book, YouTube and the android appli­ca­tion What­sApp to try to raise money for for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and to recruit three other indi­vid­u­als to join for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions. His online activ­ity also inspired him to devise a plot to kill Shi’a Mus­lims and for­mer Amer­i­can ser­vice­men at home.

Social media enabled Elfgeeh to not only learn about the activ­i­ties of for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions through videos, tweets and other online pro­pa­ganda, but to also con­nect with appar­ent sup­port­ers of those orga­ni­za­tions, in par­tic­u­lar the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Elfgeeh sought dona­tions for ter­ror­ists in Syria through Twit­ter. Among his alleged tweets were requests that peo­ple donate a third of their salary or at least “#Five_thousand_dollars_from_every_household” to sup­port mil­i­tants in Syria. He also tweeted and retweeted state­ments of sup­port for var­i­ous ter­ror groups includ­ing, “al-Qa’ida said it loud and clear: we are fight­ing the Amer­i­can inva­sion and their hege­mony over the earth and the people.”

On Face­book, Elfgeeh was a mem­ber of at least two Arabic-language Face­book groups in which group mem­bers reg­u­larly post and share al Qaeda and ISIS pro­pa­ganda. His own Face­book pho­tos included sev­eral images from Al Bat­tar media, an offi­cial ISIS pro­pa­ganda wing.

Elfgeeh also allegedly used Face­book to com­mu­ni­cate with indi­vid­u­als he believed were mem­bers of ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and with the indi­vid­u­als he was recruit­ing about plans to travel abroad to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions.

In his recruit­ing, he ini­tially sug­gested Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) and Al Shabaab as pos­si­ble des­ti­na­tions, and later focused on ISIS. Notably, AQAP, Al Shabaab and ISIS are all ter­ror­ist groups that have become highly adept at dis­trib­ut­ing exten­sive English-language pro­pa­ganda.

On April 22 2014, he allegedly posted a mes­sage on Face­book attempt­ing to gain con­nec­tions in ISIS, stat­ing, “Who­ever knows a brother from ISIS who is able to com­mu­ni­cate well in Eng­lish, can com­mu­ni­cate with me through the pri­vate, due to the impor­tance.” He also com­mu­ni­cated directly on Face­book with an indi­vid­ual he was recruit­ing to join ISIS (the indi­vid­ual was in fact an informant).

Elfgeeh was allegedly devel­op­ing a plot to com­mit mul­ti­ple mur­ders in the U.S. as well, appar­ently inspired by acts of ter­ror­ism around the world includ­ing Al Shabaab’s attack of the West­gate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya and, in par­tic­u­lar, by Mohammed Merah’s shoot­ings in France.

His inspi­ra­tion for this plot appar­ently came from watch­ing videos on YouTube. He allegedly explained that he had learned about Merah’s actions because, “[i]t’s in YouTube.” He also allegedly had watched a video that pro­vided jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and instruc­tions for his plot: The video, he stated, “tell[s] you what to do …it’s YouTube…they call them here…’individual wolf’ (an appar­ent ref­er­ence to lone wolf attacks).”

Elfgeeh is a 30-year-old nat­u­ral­ized Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. Orig­i­nally from Yemen, he resided in Rochester, NY prior to his arrest where he owned and oper­ated a store called Halal Mojo and Food­mart. He was arrested on May 31, 2014 and pleaded not guilty on Sep­tem­ber 18.

Elfgeeh is the sec­ond Amer­i­can arrested in 2014 for recruit­ing oth­ers to join for­eign ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions, fol­low­ing Rahatul Ashikim Khan of Round Rock, Texas, who was arrested in June.

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September 12, 2014 3

Hezbollah Android App Re-Launched For The Third Time

Update — 9/19/14: In response to the removal of the app from the Google Play store, Al Manar posted a state­ment attribut­ing the removal to a “cam­paign by the Jew­ish Anti-Defamation League” and promised to find “alter­na­tive ways to pro­vide the appli­ca­tion for Android phones.”

Update — 9/13/14: ADL alerted Google to the re-launched app on Sep­tem­ber 12. The app was removed from Google play later that day. ADL applauds Google’s response to Al-Manar’s repeated attempts to re-introduce this app. 

Last week, al-Manar, Hezbollah’s media arm which is listed as a “Spe­cially Des­ig­nated Global Ter­ror­ist Entity” by the U.S. gov­ern­ment, launched an Android phone app through the Google Play online store pro­vid­ing mobile access to its satel­lite tele­vi­sion sta­tion, also known as al-Manar.

Hezbollah's al-Manar app for android

Hezbollah’s al-Manar app for android

Al-Manar adver­tised the launch of the app on the land­ing page of its web­site. The announce­ment asked media net­work fol­low­ers to install the app on their phones to receive al-Manar con­tent and news, includ­ing high pri­or­ity alerts.

This is the third time Hezbol­lah has launched an app with that func­tion; the two prior apps were removed from Google Play. In July 2012, Al Manar first adver­tised its newly-launched appli­ca­tion pro­vid­ing mobile access to its satel­lite TV. Avail­able orig­i­nally through Apple’s iTunes ser­vice, Apple soon removed the app for vio­lat­ing its terms of ser­vice. After the app was removed from iTunes, Hezbol­lah tried to re-launch it again for Android phones only, but the app was soon removed from Google Play as well. In March 2014 free mobile appli­ca­tions appeared on iTunes and Google Play to pro­vide access to Al Manar pro­grams via iPhone and Android smart­phones once more.

Hezbol­lah has attempted to use mobile apps in other con­texts as well.  In June 2014, Al Manar TVlaunched an online com­pe­ti­tion in time for the World Cup called “Expect and Win” that used the California-based instant mes­sag­ing ser­vice What­sApp.The com­pe­ti­tion called on users to sub­mit pre­dic­tions for which teams would win and offered prizes for select­ing the win­ning teams. In Jan­u­ary 2014, Al Manar started using What­sAppto deliver “break­ing news” via text mes­sages to sub­scribers and to allow its sup­port­ers to inter­act with the sta­tion.  In Feb­ru­ary 2013, the mil­i­tary branch of Hezbol­lah, The Islamic Resis­tance (“Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya”) pro­vided a col­lec­tion of free Farsi and Ara­bic lan­guage pod­casts on iTunes. The pod­casts pro­moted both the ter­ror­ist group’s and the Iran­ian regime’s mil­i­tant propaganda.

Con­tin­u­ous attempts by the ter­ror­ist group to re-launch their smart phone app demon­strate their deter­mi­na­tion to exploit mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to broad­cast mes­sages of hate and ter­ror­ism to their sup­port­ers worldwide.

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