When terrorist groups are interested in NFTs

An explosion shocks the Syrian city of Kobani in a suicide car bomb attack by militants from the Islamic State group.

© Getty – Gokhan Sahin

After social networks and encrypted messaging, terrorist groups are innovating to finance and recruit. This is the case of the Islamic State, which is starting to turn to NFTs, according to the Wall Street newspaper.

Last month, a digital map praising Islamic militants for an attack on a Taliban location in Afghanistan was actually spotted by former senior US intelligence officials, the business daily reported. According to them, this virtual card, titled IS-NEWS # 01 and bearing the emblem of the Islamic State, is the first NFT created and distributed by a terrorist sympathizer. “It was just a matter of time”said Yaya Fanusie, a former CIA economics and counterterrorism analyst with the Wall Street newspaper.

Nobody can do anything concrete to eliminate this NFT.

Mario Cosby, a former federal intelligence analyst specializing in blockchain

Since NFTs are stored on a blockchain, they escape the supervision of a central regulator. Therefore, the growing interest of the Islamic State in these digital assets is of concern for intelligence agencies. The latter fear that this could give ideas to other terrorist groups, but also to arms traffickers, corrupt governments or even drug cartels, knowing that transactions on the NFT market can be carried out anonymously.

Furthermore, it seems nearly impossible for authorities, such as the US Department of Justice, to remove NFTs from the Internet. “It is as resistant to censorship as possible”he told al Wall Street newspaper Mario Cosby, a former federal intelligence analyst specializing in blockchain. “Nobody can do anything concrete to eliminate this NFT”He added.

The Islamic State rises from its ashes in Afghanistan

If this particular NFT seems to have not found a buyer, the potential multiplication of such digital cards is enough to make the American authorities sweat a cold sweat. On the same day, August 26, two more NFTs with Islamic State attributes were created by the same user. One of these digital cards shows an Islamic State fighter teaching young recruits how to make explosives, while the other condemns smoking.

After losing the vast territory it occupied in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State took advantage of the US army’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 to organize its return despite the presence of the Taliban. “Western officials fear that the remnants of the group, both online and ashore, are undergoing a revival.”writes the Wall Street newspaperinstead “Western authorities have paralyzed the organization’s financial channels, including the shutdown of its fundraising and propaganda websites.”.

And while social networks have improved their mechanisms for suppressing propaganda images of terrorist groups, NFTs are a major loophole Western authorities may have a hard time closing.

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