IS could be using NFTs to spread propaganda and raise funds: Experts

NFT praising Islamic militants raises concerns about the usage of blockchain to spread terror propaganda

Former senior US intelligence officials have identified a simple NFT from a “terrorist sympathizer” praising Islamist militants as a sign that the Islamic State could be looking towards blockchains and NFTs to raise funds and conduct propaganda campaigns, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

The NFT in question is the first known case of use of the increasingly popular technology in activities that can be directly or indirectly connected to terrorism. However, experts warn that blockchain being anonymous and immutable could attract terrorists to use its applications towards spreading terrorist messages and evading sanctions.

The digital token was discovered from pro-ISIS social-media accounts by Raphael Gluck, co-founder of the American research firm Jihadoscope. The NFT, dubbed IS-NEWS #01, consists of text praising Afghani militants for attacking a Taliban position. It also spots the Islamic State’s emblem.

The user created two other NFTs on August 26, Mario Cosby, a former federal intelligence analyst specializing in blockchain currencies, explained. One of them captures an IS fighter training students to develop explosives while the other condemns smoking cigarettes, the analyst added.

These NFTs could be an experiment by the terror group to test if emerging technologies could be used to spread their messages and develop new funding strategies.

“It’s very much an experiment […] to find ways to make content indestructible,” Gluck stated.

The NFTs were reportedly listed on the digital token marketplace OpenSea. The company, however, quickly took it down and banned the poster’s account. It further reminded users that the marketplace has a “zero-tolerance policy on inciting hate and violence.” Similar occurrences were witnessed in several other NFT marketplaces, including Rarible.

According to Cosby, despite it looking like the tokens were not traded, their existence is already a concern: 

“…it’s as censorship-proof as you can get. There’s not really anything anyone can do to actually take this NFT down.”


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