NewsSecurity & Tech

Terrorists Exploit Facebook Loopholes, Recruit Members Online

A report released by the London based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) said supporters of Islamic State (IS) continue to evade Facebook detection and exploit loopholes on the platform to reach thousands of people.

The ISD said its researchers successfully used ethnographic monitoring, that studies individual cultures through their interpretations and social interactions, to track, analyse and dissect the behaviours of the pro-IS network on Facebook.

The report added that the e-jihadists produced and shared video tutorials teaching other terrorists on how to exploit the detection weakness of the social media giant.

“ISIS supporters appear to be exploiting a major loophole on Facebook to hijack accounts from other users, using two applications that facilitate the intercepting of the password reset text messages sent by the platform,” the ISD said in the report.

The writer of the report, Mustafa Ayad, told VOA that the primary goal of the terrorists is to recruit new members and to sustain narratives and to continue spreading jihadi propaganda using the platform.

“They need to hold that territory and gain follower bases before they can commence recruitment,” he said.

“These networks are there for spreading the message, and in their parlance, to ‘remain and expand.’”

Bypassing Detection

Cybersecurity experts say some loopholes on Facebook allow the terrorists to bypass automated detection on the platform and to exploit the social media network.

The platform uses algorithms that are based on some specific flow that some users can break and bypass the standard.

“Facebook uses algorithms that are based on specific data and if you break those standards, you could bypass the algorithm in place,” said Dlshad Othman, a cybersecurity expert based in Washington.

“For example, when they [IS supporters] write the name ‘Islamic State’ on Facebook, they put multiple spaces between the two words, which allows them to bypass Facebook’s automated detection,” he added.

Facebook said it also has 350 experts and investigators who work on detecting and countering terrorism and “dangerous organisations”.

Zero Tolerance for Terrorists

Facebook said it removed more than 250 accounts referenced by the ISD report to show that it has “no tolerance for terrorist propaganda” on the platform.

“We had already removed more than 250 accounts referenced in ISD’s research prior to their report and have removed the remaining 30 accounts,” a Facebook spokesperson told VOA in a statement.

The social media company said that it removed over six million pieces of contents related to the terrorist on the platform.


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