ISIS turns to Diaspora after getting booted by Twitter


Online social media activities of the extremist group Islamic State, or also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, moved to social network Diaspora after having their accounts blocked by Twitter.

Diaspora, launched back in 2010 after a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised $200,000, is a decentralized network that has data located on several private servers, or referred to by the company as pods, that are not managed by a single administrator.

"There is therefore no way for the project's core team to manipulate or remove contents from a particular node in the network (which we call a "pod")," wrote Diaspora on a blog post, which the company says could be one of the main reasons that ISIS activists were attracted by its network.

Diaspora said that it was trying to contact the administrators of each separate pod, which are also called podmins, to inform them of the possibility of their pods harboring extremist content.

There are legal issues that will stem from hosting such content, which has Diaspora scrambling to take down all ISIS activity from its pods.

Diaspora said that it has listed down all the ISIS accounts, which are contained over several pods. The company added that all of the bigger pods have already taken down all posts and accounts related to the extremist group.

The bigger challenge lies, however, in making contact with the podmins of smaller pods for specific content to be removed.

Most of the online activity of ISIS in the past has been on Twitter. However, last week, the social media website had increased its efforts in taking down the Twitter accounts of ISIS members and followers, including those that will share gruesome images of the video that showed the brutal killing of James Foley.

Jamie Bartlett, the writer of The Dark Net, which looks at secret services on the Internet and decentralized social networks such as Diaspora, thinks that it is not surprising that ISIS would turn to the social network, with not much able to be done.

"In terms of the base technology, decentralized services are incredibly difficult for police to get a handle on. Every time they're clamped down on - the services get a bit smarter, a bit better at evading detection," said Bartlett.

Bartlett added that it is inevitable that extremist groups such as ISIS will be one of the first kinds to take advantage of the innovation of decentralized services.

Bernie Hogan from the Oxford Internet Institute says that Diaspora's origin of being a decentralized network has both a good and a bad side.

"The good part is that you don't get state interference and the bad is that you don't get state interference," Hogan said.

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