The Islamic State is beefing up its online propaganda and recruitment efforts with the release of a downloadable web-browser plugin for its Amaq newswire.
Appearing Sunday on the terror group’s social media channels, a prompt allows users to download a packaged extension file to install the plugin in the Firefox browser and then access the latest Amaq news website directly from the toolbar.
The plugin represents yet another front in the online battle ISIS is waging as it seeks to establish a ‘Digital Caliphate’ and to continue broadcasting victories and announcements to the world.
With the ongoing campaign by the U.S.-led coalition pegging back the terror group militarily in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has intensified online activities publishing high definition videos of attacks, color digital magazines, daily news bulletins and radio broadcasts to an array of blogs, websites and social media platforms.
Online, tech companies continue to fight the terror group, minimizing its platform and ability to spread.
Jihadi tweets were down 45 percent from two years ago, an Obama administration official stated last month, as Twitter continues to shut down thousands of ISIS-affiliated accounts.
Similar purges by Facebook and Google have removed thousands of Facebook pages and YouTube accounts that are attempting to disseminate the Islamic State’s message.
There have also been similar moves by blogs such as WordPress and Tubmlr as well as other social media platforms such as Telegram Messenger, the current social media platform of choice for jihadis.
The U.S. has simultaneously launched a counter-extremism drive with an anti-ISIS message online.
The jihadi workaround
While a suspended Twitter account or Facebook page makes it harder for followers to find jihadi accounts, as replacement accounts differ slightly by username, the Firefox plugin would appear to work around that issue as information becomes readily available through a click of the toolbar button.
As soon as law enforcement and counterterror agencies move to intercept the web domain currently linked to by the plugin, Jihadis can reroute the url to a new domain, putting their latest news and propaganda effortlessly in the hands of any ISIS supporter.
In the two days that the plugin has been available, The Foreign Desk has observed the current Amaq news website has remained online, protected by a Cloudflare mask that protects the domain from DDOS attacks, and updates have been published to the site ahead of the group’s Telegram channel postings.
Established in 2014 as an ‘alternative to Western media’s’ coverage of the group, Amaq News Agency has emerged as an outlet widely cited by global news networks as an official ‘State-run’ media arm of the Caliphate.
In the immediate aftermath of ISIS attacks, notably the Paris attacks of November 2015, and more recently the Brussels, Bangladesh and Nice attacks, experts in the West have been increasingly monitoring the Amaq news feeds for ISIS claims of responsibility.