Pro-Trump social network becomes safe haven for ISIS – POLITICO

A few weeks after its launch, the pro-Trump social network GETTR was inundated with terrorist propaganda spread by Islamic State supporters, according to a POLITICO review of online activity on the fledgling platform.

The social network — started a month ago by members of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle — features a queue of jihadist-related material, including video clips of beheadings, viral memes promoting anti-Western violence, and even images of a militant executing Trump in a similar orange jumpsuit. For those used in Guantanamo Bay.

The rapid spread of such material puts GETTR in the awkward position of providing a safe haven for online jihadist extremists as it attempts to establish itself as a MAGA alternative to free speech for sites like Facebook and Twitter.

It highlights the challenges facing Trump and his followers in the wake of his ban from mainstream social media platforms following the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill.

Said Mostafa Ayyad, executive director for Africa, the Middle East and Asia at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that tracks online extremism, which discovered jihadist accounts and shared the findings with Politico.

“On Facebook, there was on one of these accounts that I follow known as Islamic State, who said ‘Oh, Trump announced his new platform. God willing all the mujahideen will take advantage of that platform’.” The next day, there were no less than 15 GETTR accounts about the Islamic State.

While GETTR does not provide access to its data to track the spread or spread of such extremist material on its platform, POLITICO has found at least 250 accounts that have been regularly posted on the platform since early July. Many followed each other and used the hashtag to promote jihadist material for this growing online community.

In the months since he was kicked out of Twitter and suspended from Facebook, Trump has sought alternative ways to engage with his online base. While his supporters have moved to other sites on the Internet — including the social network Parler, where they can express themselves without facing increased scrutiny — Trump’s own efforts to create an online megaphone have stalled.

In May, he launched a blog called “From the Office of Donald J. Trump” – but it was removed a few weeks later amid widespread ridicule and poor readers.

To date, GETTR has been the highest-grossing pro-Trump launchpad, due to the names behind it: Jason Miller, a former Trump spokesman, is the CEO, and the site is funded in part by Miles Joe, Trump’s former business partner. Consultant Steve Bannon. Trump himself is not directly involved in the process, nor has he formally signed off on the platform. The social network has promoted a “freedom of expression” policy that will supposedly allow users to fully express themselves without censorship from tech giants.

However, this mass exodus from MAGA to fringe social networks that advocate unfettered discourse has caught the attention of supporters of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups, according to extremism experts.

In response to questions about jihadist material being shared on GETTR, Miller told POLITICO that ISIS was attacking MAGA because Trump destroyed the group militarily. “The only ISIS members still alive are keyboard warriors hiding in caves and eating dirt cakes,” he said in a text message.

These terrorist communities have similarly faced widespread removals from the largest social networks, which have often encouraged crackdowns on Islamic extremists as an example of how tech companies censor their global platforms for harmful content.

In response, supporters of the Islamic State quickly shifted gears, looking for new spaces on the Internet where they could spread their hateful material, as well as using tactics and platforms first used in the United States.

“He is ISIS Here?” I asked an account whose profile picture was that of the Islamic State flag, using the Arabic acronym for jihadist movement. The responses came in the affirmative, with some praising the social network for its willingness to host such content.

Days after GETTR was launched on July 1, supporters of the Islamic State began urging their followers on other social networks to sign up for the pro-Trump network, in part to bring the jihadist fight straight to MAGA.

One of the Islamic State’s Facebook accounts wrote on July 6: “If this app reaches the expected success, which is mostly possible, followers must embrace it and turn it on in order to restore the glory of Twitter, God reigns.”

Some jihadist posts on GETTR have been removed from early July, highlighting that the pro-Trump platform has taken at least some steps to remove the harmful material.

Larger platforms like Facebook and Twitter now operate through the Global Internet Counterterrorism Forum, an industry-funded nonprofit that shares terrorist content between companies — via a database of extremist material accessible to its members — so that the material can be removed as quickly as possible.

GETTR has not registered yet.

In the platform’s Terms of Service, it explains how to remove offensive or illegal content, including terrorism-related content, from GETTR. “This may include content that has been identified as personal bullying, sexual abuse of a child, attacking any religion or race, or content that contains video or images of beheadings,” one of the paragraphs states.

Although the site had a bad reputation for modifying users on the platform — in its early days, it was inundated with a wide variety of pornography — Miller drew the line in doxxing, sharing other people’s headlines, or advocating physical harm.

In interviews, the CEO of GETTR has promoted the site’s content modification policy, which relies primarily on a combination of human monitoring and algorithms.

Four days after POLITICO submitted several requests for comment to GETTR, many of these accounts and videos are still running.

The total amount of terrorist propaganda found by Politico on GETTR is just a fraction of the mostly right-wing content – which also includes promoting the white supremacist movement. More conservative influencers and policy makers such as Sean Hannity and Mike Pompeo are also posting regularly on the platform.

However, the fact that such jihadist material was readily available on the social network, and GETTR’s failure to quell such extremism, underscores the company’s difficulties in balancing the ethics of free speech with the growing demands to prevent terrorism-related material from being found. Online audience.

Adam Hadley, director of Tech Against Terrorism, a nonprofit that works with smaller social networks, but not GETTR, in combating the rise of extremist content online.

“Many smaller platforms do not have the resources to remove this type of content automatically,” he added. His organization membership includes Tumblr and WordPress, the blogging platform.

Extremism analysts who reviewed Politico’s findings said Islamic State supporters’ use of GETTR appears to be a preliminary test to see if their content will survive detection or be moderated.

In the ongoing cat-and-mouse battle with Western national security agencies and Silicon Valley platforms, jihadist groups are rapidly evolving their tactics to stay one step ahead of online takedowns.

Terrorist organizations are always experimenting, said Emerson Brooking, senior fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab and author of LikeWar, because they are fighting a real battle to keep access to public places to spread their propaganda. Weaponizing social media.

So far, supporters of the Islamic State are enjoying the incursion into GETTR and the potential new audience they can reach. And she wrote a novel whose name referred to the extremist group, “My years will be upon you with slaughter and explosions, O worshipers of the Cross.”[H]The greatest freedom of expression.”

Reem Mumtaz contributed to this report from Paris. This article has been updated to include a response from GETTR.

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