Instagram As A Worldwide Jihadi Platform: Supporters Of Al-Qaeda, ISIS And Other Groups Post Content In English, Arabic, Farsi, German, Russian, Turkish, Malay, Indonesian, and Other Languages

March 6, 2020

Instagram is a social media photo-sharing application with over one billion monthly active users. As MEMRI Cyber Jihad Lab research has shown, the application is a popular platform for jihadis fighting in Syria, as well as for their sympathizers, for propagating the message of the Islamic State (ISIS), Al-Qaeda, and other jihadi groups. It adds that it is one of the host of social media platforms that jihadis are adept at using, and by means of which they leave their indelible mark online" and that it appears to be used by jihadis mainly to chronicle life on the battlefield, or for public, and private one-on-one communications.[1] 

While Instagram's Community Guidelines state that the platform "is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups,"[2] it is home to innumerable accounts supporting and praising terrorists and terrorist groups, some of which have been active for years.

MEMRI has previously documented Instagram's use by supporters of terrorist groups such as ISIS,[3] Hizbullah,[4] Hamas,[5] and others. MEMRI has also extensively followed three leading jihadi preachers that are very popular on Instagram: the late Yemeni-American Al-Qaeda leader Anwar Al-'Awlaki,[6] the Dearborn, Michigan-based jihadi cleric Ahmad Musa Jibril,[7] and the imprisoned Jamaican pro-ISIS cleric Abdullah Al-Faisal.[8]

The following report highlights a few typical jihadi accounts on Instagram, active as of February 2020. Jihadi accounts on Instagram have been found in a variety of languages including Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Indonesian, German, Russian and Malay.

Account Supporting ISIS

The account below has 395 followers and 22 posts, some of which feature ISIS propaganda. The profile states: ''Umm M*****. Feelings of your absence melt every sound And nights of your pain make silence painful." The account avatar shows a fully covered woman with a rifle and ammunition.

On February 9, 2020, Umm M***** posted another ISIS video, this one featuring a speech from the late ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Account Supporting Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham

The account below posts HTS related content and has 357 followers and three posts, and its avatar shows a man in a balaclava holding a knife. The profile quotes Quran 9:73: ''O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them. And their refuge is Hell, and wretched is the destination."

It is unclear what group this account is associated with, but it follows other Farsi-language HTS accounts. An image posted January 19, 2020 showed a man in a balaclava holding a rifle on a mountain road, with a motorcycle. Text on the image reads: ''The assassin of the rawafid [Shiites]."

Accounts Supporting The Taliban

A smaller number of accounts on Instagram also promote the efforts of the Taliban in Afghanistan. For example, the account below with 381 followers and 12 posts, primarily posts images of the group in Afghanistan. The account avatar shows the back of a man dressed in the central Asian style.

On January 24, 2019, the account posted an image of an armed Taliban fighter taken from behind along with a number of hashtags including "Afghanistan, mujahed" and "talibjan."

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.

 

[2] Help.instagram.com/477434105621119, accessed February 28, 2020.

[3] See MEMRI CJL report The Pro-ISIS Presence On Instagram, May 29, 2018.

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