Instagram - An Accessible Platform For ISIS Supporters And Activists To Share Graphic Images, Videos, And Publications

October 17, 2017

For a few years now, Islamic State (ISIS) supporters and militants have been using Instagram to share both personal photos and official ISIS content. On numerous occasions, Instagram has also been used by pro-ISIS accounts to broadcast threats. In 2016, a number of accounts posted graphic images on the platform; however, for most of 2017, there have been fewer such images appearing on it.

Recently, though, there seems to have been an uptick in pro-ISIS and ISIS-linked Instagram accounts posting graphic content and official ISIS publications and videos. Pro-ISIS accounts are often easy to identify; numerous users have avatars of the ISIS flag and of key ISIS leaders such as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and Abu Muhammad Al-'Adnani, or user names that indicate allegiance to the organization. ISIS activists operate accounts which disseminate the group's weekly, Al-Naba' and its magazine Rumiyah. These accounts also post ISIS statements, as well as the latest ISIS video releases. Additionally, long-standing extremist accounts on which MEMRI has reported in the past, such as the Invite to Islam account, are still active on Instagram.

A September 2017 Daily Beast report discussing the use of Instagram's "stories" feature by ISIS militants quoted an Instagram representative as stating: "There is no place for terrorists, terrorist propaganda, or the praising of terror activity on Instagram, and we work aggressively to remove content or an account as soon as we become aware of it. We prioritize reports related to terrorism, and we have dedicated teams that work to stop the spread of terrorist content."

The following report will include examples of extremist accounts that are currently active on Instagram, and the ways in which these individuals are using the platform to distribute official Islamic state content.

Instagram's Terms of Service And Community Guidelines

Neither Instagram's Terms of Use (TOU) add footnote nor its Community Guidelines on its website devote much attention to the issue of promotion or propagation of extremism or violence in the photos posted to its platform; rather, it just mentions these in passing. It focuses more on ensuring there is no promotion of anorexia or other eating disorders, or sexual content involving minors, for example.

The Terms of Use state that violation of these terms can result in the termination of an account: "...If you violate the letter or spirit of these Terms of Use, or otherwise create risk or possible legal exposure for Instagram, we can stop providing all or part of the Service to you."

The Community Guidelines state: "Follow the law: Instagram is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups. Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it's legal in your region) is also not allowed. Remember to always follow the law when offering to sell or buy other regulated goods. Accounts promoting online gambling, online real money games of skill or online lotteries must get our prior written permission before using any of our products. We have zero tolerance when it comes to sharing sexual content involving minors or threatening to post intimate images of others."

It should be noted that Instagram does allow its users to report an account; clicking on the account in question allows the user to report it.

Instagram Accounts Disseminating ISIS Releases And Statements

The Instagram account Dgxdhgjj is run by an ISIS supporter who appears to be from Yemen and who also operates numerous other Instagram accounts. When one of their accounts is suspended by Instagram, they soon launch a new one. In the account shown below, they are sharing ISIS content in Bosnian.

Dgxdhgjj also shares links to the latest ISIS videos. The full text of this report is available to MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor subscribers. Subscription information is available at this link. JTTM subscribers can visit this page to view the report.

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