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AQAP Online Presence Temporarily Disrupted, Emphasising Urgent Action on Terrorist-Operated Websites

The latest website of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) temporarily went offline this month. Tech Against Terrorism’s experience in disrupting the terror group’s online activities underscores the need for urgent action on Terrorist-Operated Websites.

16 June 2023: Tech Against Terrorism is pleased to see the fifth iteration of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s website go offline this month. We have disrupted the previous four versions since late last year by engaging with infrastructure providers.

The site unfortunately reappeared around a week after going offline. It is unclear what caused the outage, although it coincided with our efforts to take it offline.

However, our efforts in this space provide a case study in how the counterterrorism world is failing to effectively counter the threat of terrorist-operated websites.

Terror groups find it easy to establish websites thanks to inconsistent responses by infrastructure providers, and inconsistencies between jurisdictions in the legality of terrorist content.

In the case of this AQAP website, a provider refused to take action on our report despite a clear legal basis in the group’s designation by multiple jurisdictions, including by the United Nations Security Council. We understand that a nation state was also involved in raising concerns about AQAP’s website.  The site only went offline temporarily and returned to usual operation within a week.

This AQAP website was just one of hundreds of terrorist-operated websites (TOWs) currently active on the surface web. Many of these have operated for months or even years without disruption, including those affiliated with Al-Qaeda, Islamic State (IS) and designated far-right terrorist actors.

The consequences of terrorist-operated websites should not be lost on any of us. While terrorists are finding it harder to exploit social media platforms, they are finding it easier to simply set up websites for recruitment and dissemination.

The threat of terrorist operated websites is therefore a strategic priority for Tech Against Terrorism.

Over the past year Tech Against Terrorism has disrupted more than 30 websites. Although we consider this a success, we acknowledge that there is much more to be done to more effectively counter this overlooked element of terrorist use of the internet.

Disrupting terrorist-operated websites is a complicated process that requires durable solutions. Tech Against Terrorism is working to develop procedures and policies that aim to bring about lasting change in mitigating this threat.

See also:

The Threat of Terrorist and Violent Extremist Operated Websites

Responding to Terrorist-Operated Websites

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