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Report: The Threat of Terrorist and Violent Extremist Operated Websites

28 January 2022

To read the report, click here

A new report from Tech Against Terrorism has found that global terrorist and violent extremist actors are running at least 198 websites on the surface web. In-depth analysis of 33 of the most prominent websites – run by actors such as Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Atomwaffen Division and the Taliban – confirms that these sites have 1.54 million monthly visitors, with the majority of visits coming from Algeria, Pakistan, United States, and the United Kingdom.  

Adam Hadley, Founder and Director of Tech Against Terrorism, said: 

“The fact that terrorists and violent extremists are able to operate hundreds of websites attracting millions of views with impunity is a failure on behalf of the global online counterterrorism sector. Terrorist operated websites is the key strategic threat with regards to terrorist use of the internet. It is clear that policymakers need to devote more political capital towards identifying practical and policy-oriented solutions to this challenge.” 

Deeba Shadnia, OSINT Analyst at Tech Against Terrorism, said: 

“Broad improvements in online moderation of terrorist content on mainstream social media has pushed terrorists and violent extremists onto smaller, more niche online spaces, and many terrorist actors have grown more reliant on website infrastructure. Without targeted action, websites provide terrorist actors with a stable and easily located platform that facilitates the dissemination and archiving of propaganda content, recruitment and internal communication.”  

 In 2021, Tech Against Terrorism has facilitated the removal of 16 terrorist operated websites. 

Summary of key findings in the report 

Tech Against Terrorism has located 198 websites operated by terrorists and violent extremists. These sites promote violent extremist ideologies such as Neo-Nazism, violent insurrectionary accelerationism, Salafi-Jihadism, and Incel ideology. Analysis of these sites found that:

  • 101 websites are operated by far-right violent extremist or terrorist groups 
  • 79 websites are operated by violent Sunni Islamist extremist or terrorist groups 
  • 18 websites are operated by violent Shia Islamist extremist or terrorist groups 
  • Sample analysis of 33 of these websites – run by groups such as Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Atomwaffen Division, Combat 18, and the Taliban – found that: 

    • These websites had a total of 1.54 million monthly visits 
    • 91% displayed audio and visual propaganda 
    • 73% contained an archive of historic terrorist content 
    • 57% included a contact address form 
    • The 17 violent Islamist sites saw most visitors from Algeria, Pakistan, and Turkey 
    • The 16 violent far-right websites saw most visitors from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Czechia 
    • Terrorist operated websites constitute a key propaganda organ for terrorist and violent extremist groups, and allow groups to disseminate recruitment material without disruption. The rise in prominence of terrorist operated websites is likely the result of improved removal campaigns across other parts of the tech industry, including on larger social media platforms.

    • There is currently no unified global approach against terrorist operated websites. Tech Against Terrorism recommends that governments create a strategy to disrupt terrorist operated websites based on collaborative engagement with web infrastructure providers and on human rights safeguards. 

    To read the report, click report below

    [pdf-embedder url="https://www.techagainstterrorism.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/The-Threat-of-Terrorist-and-Violent-Extremist-Operated-Websites-Jan-2022-1.pdf"]