Social media have long since become the primary means for jihadis and jihadi groups to disseminate content, recruit, fundraise, and more; their use of Twitter and other services to share links to extensive content that they post on content-sharing web services such as Justpaste.it is well documented. In this way, they circumvent restrictions on the social media platforms - such as Twitter's 140-character limit or other platforms' word count or other size limits - that is, they are expanding their posts, sharing much more content than they would otherwise be able to. They are also avoiding having their jihadi content detected and their accounts shut down.
On these content-sharing services, users can freely post photos, documents, declarations, announcements, appeals, and more, and then easily share the links to these pages' content via their social media accounts. All a reader needs to do to access the content is to click on the posted link. Jihadis typically use these services to share photo collections and videos documenting beheadings, executions, and battles, and well as calls for recruitment, transcripts of leaders' speeches, policy documents, and indoctrination materials (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES).
Posting Content On Justpaste.it
For some time now, Justpaste.it has been the most important content-sharing website for jihadis. In four easy steps, anyone can post content on Justpaste.it: 1) Go to justpaste.it. 2) Type in text and upload photos or documents. 3) Click "Publish" to create a web page. 4) Share the link of the web page.
This report will look at the cycle of jihadi preferences for social media content-sharing platforms, led by Justpaste.it.
Justpaste.it: Operated From Poland, Hosted In Germany, Widely Used By Jihadi Groups And Followers - Including ISIS And Al-Qaeda
The free content-sharing web service Justpaste.it, which allows content to be posted within seconds with no registration required, was established in 2009. In its Terms of Service, Justpaste.it places almost no restrictions on the posting of content; in fact, it "expressly disclaims any and all liability in connection with Content," except for "Content which contains material which it is unlawful for you to possess in the country in which you are resident" and "third party copyright material." It also warns users that they may "be exposed to Content that is factually inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or otherwise objectionable to you" and specifies that users "agree to waive, and hereby do waive, any legal or equitable rights or remedies you have or may have against JustPaste.it with respect to any such Content."
According to its founder and owner Mariusz Zurawek, who operates the website out of his home in Poland, the service was aimed at making posting photos and videos extremely easy. Zurawek said, in December 2015, that since he launched the site its web hosting has been provided by the "German company Hetzner." However, according to the geolocation of the IP address via DNS Lookup, it was hosted in Marina Del Ray, California until September 2015; prior to that, it was registered to Zurawek and hosted in Germany. It is currently not possible to determine where it is hosted, since it is using the U.S.-based reverse proxy service CloudFlare.
ISIS Begins Using Justpaste.it: Founder Claims Non-Interference, Expresses Pride That Syrians Chose His Platform, Appreciates "Bad Publicity"; Authorities Ask Him To Remove ISIS Content
Beginning in early 2014, the content posted on Justpaste.it began to include jihadi videos and images from Syria; soon Islamic State (ISIS) fighters began posting a large number of images of executions, beheadings, and massacres, and it became clear that Justpaste.it had become an essential part of the group's social media operations. This coincided with crackdowns by Facebook and YouTube on this type of content.
When jihadis' use of Justpaste.it came to the attention of authorities, later in 2014, Zurawek defended it as a form of freedom of speech: "I do not want to interfere with any type of conflict and stay on one side... I don't have enough information about ISIS to tell the public if they are good or evil. Justpaste.it has many users. I cannot focus on a single group." He also said that he was proud that Syrians had chosen to share images on his site.
In August 2014, the London Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorism unit asked Zurawek to remove individual ISIS posts, and even though the force had no jurisdiction in Poland, he complied, removing up to 2,000 posts, by his count, as of March 2015.
In a December 2015 interview, Zurawek said: "Surprisingly, I found that the bad publicity" his site had gotten from ISIS's use of it "also created a positive impact and attention to the site that made other people start using it for good causes... I have seen an increase in visits since ISIS tried to exploit my service." He added that the hosting company, Hetzner, had once "complained about the ISIS content and wanted to force me to include registration for each content shared. I explained them that 'no registration required' is the main idea of the site and they actually responded well. They agreed that as long as I am being stricter with removing content no registration would be required."
August 2014: Justpaste.it Removes Some Jihadi Content; October 2014: Jihadis Begin Launching Their Own Content-Sharing Websites
It was apparently this removal of content on Justpaste.it that prompted jihadis to launch their own content-sharing websites - among them Manbar.me, created in October 2014; Nasher.me, created in January 2015; and Alors.ninja, created in July 2015. These content-sharing websites function like Justpaste.it, allowing users to quickly and easily create webpages without the need to register or to provide any identifying information. The links to the pages created on them are then, like Justpaste.it links, tweeted and shared on other social media.
February 2015: Some Jihadi Content-Sharing Websites Defunct - Justpaste.it Again Used By Jihadis - Use Of New Websites Also Increases
However, a great deal of jihadi content was left undisturbed on Justpaste.it, and now, over a year later, it is again one of the main services used by jihadis, particularly ISIS-affiliated jihadis, for posting content. Manbar.me and Nasher.me are no longer online, since March and February 2015, respectively. However, Alors.ninja was recently discovered by ISIS, and its use is now expanding (see section below); and new services, Sharetext.net and PasteMaker, are also now being used.
Content posted in the past year on Justpaste.it - much of which is posted on a daily basis - includes photos of massacres of hundreds of prisoners and graphic documentation of the beheading of a man with a surrounding audience that included children. Links to this content on Justpaste.it continue to be very widely tweeted and also disseminated on other social media.
Examples Of Jihadi Content On Justpaste.it
The following are examples of content on some of the hundreds of jihadi pages on Justpaste.it (for more, see Appendix I: Further Examples Of Jihadi Content On Justpaste.it). These represent how ISIS and other jihadi groups are using the platform - in clear violation of Justpaste.it's own minimal terms of service, mentioned above.
On May 15, 2016, @ns_243 tweeted a link to a photo report posted by ISIS's Khurasan Province, i.e. Afghanistan, on Justpaste.it, with the comment: "#Khurasan province, killing three members from the nationalistic #Taliban movement." (WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC)
The following are the photos from the report on Justpaste.it, titled "Killing three members from the nationalistic Taliban movement." (WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC)
"The apostate 'Abd Al-Ghafour (Fida'i), one of the members of the nationalistic Taliban movement"