NFTs are the funky, futuristic place for crypto bros and cool people. But who knew that even terror groups like the IS (Islamic State) would be into the funky trading? Move aside Bored Ape, it's time for some terrorist propaganda NFTs to steal the limelight.
If you think you have seen it all, wait till you hear about ISIS literally minting non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
The Wall Street Journal reported about an NFT bearing the symbols, emblem and message of support from the IS being spotted on NFT marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible.
The NFT was spotted by US-based Jihadoscope, which tracks jihadist activity on social media and the internet.
It's a simple text card with the emblem of the IS and a message. It is a message from IS-KP (Islamic State Khorasan Province), which is the IS affiliate operating in Afghanistan. The message praises the success of the blast in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. The WSJ reported that it was in reference to the mosque bomb blast in Kabul in August 2022.
The NFT was spotted on popular marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible with the title, "IS-NEWS #01." However, soon after it was brought to the notice of the marketplaces, the said NFT and the creator's account was deleted by both OpenSea and Rarible.
Both the marketplaces cited "zero tolerance policy" towards inciting hate and violating community guidelines in a statement to the WSJ.
So, is the NFT completely removed?
"There's not really anything anyone can do to actually take this NFT down," Mario Cosby, a former US intelligence analyst told WSJ.
That's because cryptocurrencies, their transaction and NFTs tend to remain forever on the blockchain. The IS NFT can still be accessed if someone has the blockchain address.
"The NFT is available on a platform called IPFS, a system that stores and retrieves data across an array of internet nodes, which would be extremely difficult to eliminate," the WSJ quoted Cosby as saying.
This means that the propaganda can never be taken down. Earlier, similar messages on Twitter or Facebook could be deleted and original link forever removed. But not anymore. The original version of the message will forever continue to stay.
What did IS do with the NFT? Jihadoscope's co-founder Raphael Gluck says that the NFT was an experiment by the creator, who could be an IS sympathiser. It wasn't listed for sale.
This means that the IS is exploring the NFT space to spread its propaganda, and it could just be a matter of time before they learn to use the emerging technology for their benefit.
"It's very much an experiment…to find ways to make content indestructible," said Raphael Gluck.
What does this mean? There were more than one NFT made by the creator. One NFT showed an IS fighter teaching how to make explosives and the other one condemned smoking cigarettes.
#RaphaelGluck,coFounder ofTheUS research company #Jihadoscope,has discovered the #NFT.He found it via pro-ISIS socialmedia accounts.— S O H E i L (@Soheil_SBabaei) September 5, 2022
The name of the digital token is “IS-NEWS #01” and it has an image of the emblem belonging to the #IslamicState. pic.twitter.com/mg8Kc9r23B
For a long time, governments around the world have been concerned about the intractability of blockchain platforms. Cryptocurrencies are already in use by terrorists to launder money. And NFTs could just be added to the list. NFTs could also be used to collect money from sympathisers from across the world and use it to fund deadly attacks. The simplicity of the transaction, which can be done instantly with a click, without any respect for borders, will make it tough for authorities to track any illegal movement of money.
In March 2022, Israel seized crypto wallets linked to the Hamas militant group operating in Gaza strip. Earlier, in August, India's NIA arrested a 22-year-old Jamia Millia Islamia student for allegedly collecting money from supporters in and outside India, and then converting them into cryptocurrencies to funnel it to a terror group.
In the UK, a sales consultant was arrested for allegedly using Bitcoin to fund the IS.
The question is how the crypto and NFT platforms can keep terror groups off of their sites. Then there are also unanswered questions about what happens:
How do I know if an NFT on the marketplace is an ISIS / Daesh one?— Michael Gogel (@mgogel) September 7, 2022
If you buy and resell an ISIS NFT for a profit, then does that make you a terrorist?
If you buy and resell an ISIS NFT for a loss, then did you just wash terrorist money?
ISIS may be stuck in the middle ages going by their ideology, but they seem very good at keeping up with the technology trends that benefit them.