The following report is a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
As part of their online media strategy, jihadi groups have in recent years begun using Western websites and technologies - uploading videos to YouTube and to the Internet Archive, creating official Facebook pages, tweeting news flashes from the jihadi fronts, posting images on Instagram and other services, and using numerous other social media as they emerge. Jihadis have also come to depend on free web hosting and services such as Archive.org, where content can be uploaded anonymously, reliably, and at no cost.
The use of social media in the current conflict in Syria and Iraq highlights the global jihad movement's complete dependence on the Internet and on U.S.-based social media companies. A large number of jihadis who have gone to Syria use Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Ask.FM, Kik, and other social media, to communicate, plan attacks, fundraise and keep in touch with family and friends.
SoundCloud - 'The Audio YouTube' In The Service Of Global Jihad
While YouTube and the Internet Archive are known as favorite platforms for jihadists to share videos, the most recent addition to the social media lineup for this group is SoundCloud, the Berlin-based social networking platform created in 2007 that allows users to upload and share audio content for free. The company started off as an online stage where musicians could collaborate with each other, and much of the content that can be found on it consists of original albums or tracks uploaded by musicians. However, the company has evolved into the "YouTube of audio," where musicians can upload their latest original work, supporters can upload political candidate speeches, and more. With 175 million monthly listeners, SoundCloud is now the second biggest streaming music service in the world.
Among these users and listeners are ardent supporters of Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (IS/ISIS), and other jihadi groups, who have taken advantage of this social sound platform. User avatars include images celebrating 9/11, the black flag used by Al-Qaeda and its offshoots, and martyrs from Syria, Iraq, and other jihadi fronts, including leaders of Al-Qaeda affiliates such as Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN), IS and other organizations.
It should be mentioned that recently jihadists on Twitter now tweet links to their favorite tracks on SoundCloud.
Also starting in October 2014, News broadcast from the IS radio Al-Bayyab in Mosul began to be posted on SoundCloud.
Content on SoundCloud is being disseminated via other social media. For example, the AQAP media wing Al-Malahem tweets files from the ISIS radio station Al-Bayan, in Ninawa, Iraq, which broadcasts news summaries and latest developments, and voice recordings of commanders are also disseminated.
The following report highlights some of the thousands of jihadi user accounts on SoundCloud, whose numbers are growing daily, as well as how they are being used.
SoundCloud's Terms of Service - Not Being Enforced
According to SoundCloud's Terms of Service, a user "must not use the Platform to upload, post, store, transmit, display, copy, distribute, promote, make available or otherwise communicate to the public... any Content... that promotes violence, terrorism." It goes on to state that the users "hereby represent and warrant to SoundCloud... Your Content... is not and will not... promote violence, terrorism."
The "YassmineOkasheh" account on SoundCloud features a number of songs, anthems and sermons commending the beauty of jihad and martyrdom, including a recording glorifying Osama bin Laden. Posts are typically hashtagged #jihadi or #nasheed; as of this writing this account has 30 tracks and 83 followers.
This page, although it has no original content, has compiled a playlist of 23 tracks either from or about the late Yemeni-American jihadi sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki. Thirteen of the tracks on this playlist are sermons in English by Al-Awlaki, each of which has received 200-300 plays.
This account consists exclusively of songs (nasheeds) glorifying ISIS. Although it has only 24 followers, the play count for each of the 29 tracks averages 300-400 plays, with the 'ISIS Nasheed' (below) garnering over 1,400 plays.
Soundcloud.com/abusayfullah/nasheed-dawlatul-islami-qamaat - "...the Islamic State has risen..."
Shabab As syam
This account consists primarily of nasheeds and sermons, aimed at members of ISIS and other jihadis around the world, including Chechnya and Palestine. It also posts links to English and Arabic news reports about ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra. It currently has 32 tracks and 63 followers.
Khilafah In Shaa Allah
This user is described as a "supporter of the mujahideen" based in "Jerusalem, Palestine." The content is almost all nasheeds surrounding the establishment of the Islamic State, and awaiting the coming of "Jannah," i.e. Paradise. Tracks are hashtagged #remain, #nasheed, and #jihad. This account has 23 tracks and 50 followers.
Abu Yusuf Ansari 2
This page includes recordings of sermons and messages, notably by ISIS leaders Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and ISIS spokesman Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-'Adnani Al-Shami. The account has 10 tracks and 39 followers.
This page offers a number of nasheeds, and sermons, generally calling for the need to establish an Islamic state. A number of these tracks are laments for fallen jihadis, including Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi. The account has 32 tracks and 500 followers, with 1,000-3,000 plays per track.
Omar Albaghdadi 1
This Baghdad-based user posts original content in the form of songs, and poetry, aimed at expressing his support for the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi; his references to Al-Baghdadi date back to January 2014 and predate the establishment of the Islamic State. Additionally, the account includes a playlist of audio recordings by ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-'Adnani Al-Shami. It has a total of 22 tracks and 117 followers.
This account posts recitations, poems, and naheeds for and about jihadis, including Islamic State content. It has 24 tracks and 349 followers.
The user, identified as "Mouhamed Asslan," devotes his SoundCloud account entirely to songs and anthems about victory, glory, and martyrdom. It includes 30 tracks and has 295 followers; the tracks have received an average of 2,000 plays each.
This page hosts no original content, but reposts a great deal of jihadi content, calling for breaking down borders. Hashtags include #breakingboundaries and #remainandexpand; the latter is an increasingly prominent hashtag on ISIS-affiliated SoundCloud accounts. This account has 29 followers.
Abo 3bd''allah asalmany
As of June 19, 2014, this account had nine followers and was following 30 other users and many sermons of Al-Awlaki and other jihadi content; it is currently not active.
Abu Bakr Al-Afghani
The majority of original content from this account consists of nasheeds for ISIS and jihadi anthems; it contains 22 tracks and has 61 followers.
An account dedicated to jihadi chants, nashedmojahed has over 3,000 followers, and each of its 13 tracks has had 20,000-50,000 plays. The majority of the tracks' images feature jihadi nasheeds.
This account exclusively posts nasheeds about the oneness of Allah, martyrdom, and jihad. The most popular track, "Marhaban bil Maut" ("Hello to Death") has had nearly 400 plays. The account has a total of 12 tracks and has 10 followers.
This account's owner is described as a young Tunisian woman and ISIS supporter; the default image shows a map of the intended Islamic Caliphate and the posts in it reflect a focus on the establishment of an Islamic state. The account contains nasheeds about ISIS, lectures, and sermons by Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi and others; it has a total of 22 tracks and 26 followers.
This is a page of 26 nasheeds, with plays ranging from 100 to over 1,000 plays each. The user, describing their location as 'Muslim Ummah, Egypt' identifies first as a Muslim, as evidenced in the tracks calling for aid to 'brothers' in Syria and Iraq. The user has 54 followers.
This account explicitly defines its location as 'Islamic State, Iraq' and includes both Koranic recitations and nasheeds about the dawn of the Islamic state, focusing particularly on the martyrs of Iraq. The page features a common song entitled "Ummati qad laha fajr" ("The dawn of my nation has loomed") which appears and is reposted on a number of pages from various accounts. One chant appears "courtesy of Sheikh Abu Bakr al Baghdadi." The account features 10 tracks and has 42 followers.
"The dawn of my nation has loomed... the Islamic state has risen."
LOVE - JEEHAD
This account posts content praising the efforts of ISIS soldiers and the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, bearing the sub headline: "The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria remains and expands." The account has 30 Tracks and 318 followers.
Playlistâ€”"One Bullet Away from Jannah [Paradise]"
This account includes nasheed post "breaking borders," which received over 100 plays in its first day (7/6/2014). Additionally, earlier posts forewarn the 'liberation' of key Islamic cities, with hashtags such as #alaqsaiscoming and #baghdadiscoming. The account has 21 tracks and 109 followers.
"No... no... the solution is Jihad against the Occupier"
This account supports the efforts of ISIS and claims to be 'seeking martyrdom,' posting sermons, nasheeds, and poetry recitations. It has 34 tracks and 948 followers.
This account does not belong to Abu Hajar Hadhrami himself, but is an anonymous user's collection of Abu Hajar Hadhrami nasheed recordings. It is among the most popular of the jihad chant SoundCloud accounts, and its tracks have been reposted numerous times by a number of the accounts listed above. It includes 28 tracks and has 3,249 followers.
This page includes 11 audio tracks, all of which are nasheeds, or Koranic recitations, with sermons and speech interspersed with songs. Each of the tracks has had over 1,000 plays, with the most popular, titled "They want to kill me," surpassing 8,000 plays; the account has 264 followers.
* Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of MEMRI.