Islamic Extremism on Telegram

Globe connectionsThe George Washington University Program on Extremism just released Encrypted Extremism: Inside the English-Speaking Islamic State Ecosystem on Telegram, a study into the usage of the Telegram messaging software by Islamic State (IS) sympathizers.

Telegram is a multimedia messaging application that is accessible by smartphones, tablets, and computers. Telegram users can utilize its end-to-end encryption when making private phone calls or when having secret chats.

The specific focus of the study was to address the following research questions:

  1. How do English-speaking IS supporters use Telegram’s suite of features to build online networks, disseminate propaganda, and guide operations?
  2. In which ways do English-speaking IS supporters on Telegram balance the need for broad-based messaging and recruitment with the necessity of operational security?
  3. How do English-speaking IS supporters on Telegram react to pressure against the organization in the online and offline spaces?

The study finds that the features offered by Telegram are often exploited by extremist groups, and the application is described as “the centerpiece of IS supporters’ online communications strategy.” Telegram is preferred because of its encryption capabilities as well as its public accessibility. Its myriad of features allows for a massive amount of content sharing across the networks of Islamic State sympathizers.

While it seems that Telegram may be willing to cooperate more with law enforcement moving forward, it is uncertain whether Islamic State supporters will continue to heavily utilize the application, or look for other platforms to exploit.

For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Cyber Crime & National Security and Global Terrorism.

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