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Islamic State Online: A Look at the Group’s South Asian Presence on Alternate Platforms

Islamic State Online: A Look at the Group’s South Asian Presence on Alternate Platforms
27th February 2023 Suraj Ganesan
In Report-Gnet

The Executive Summary of this report is also available in Arabic

In 2019, Telegram took extensive action to remove Islamic State (IS) channels and supporters of the group from its platform. Telegram’s crackdown led to the attempted migration of IS supporters to apps like Hoop Messenger, Rocket.Chat and TamTam, with Hoop Messenger being the most popular encrypted social media platform for IS supporters. However, IS lost a significant number of supporters in the migration from Telegram to these lesser-known platforms. These platforms are also less than a tenth as popular as Telegram and do not offer the convenience of Telegram. Subsequently, IS has voiced frustration at its lack of followers in many of the groups analysed by the authors. At the time of writing, there are no in-depth analyses on the number of IS’s supporters on these new platforms and the narratives they propagate.

This report provides an analysis of the migration of IS supporters in South Asia to Hoop Messenger. The authors collated data from more than 25 South Asia-centric channels from 2019 until Hoop Messenger was shut down in October 2022. This report further identifies distinct variation among IS narratives across channels dedicated to individual states in South Asia. For example, in channels dedicated to Afghanistan, narratives criticised the Taliban for not being Islamic enough. In channels dedicated to Pakistan, narratives focused on criticism of the state for allying with the United States. Indian IS channels focused on the mistreatment of and violence towards Muslims. In Bangladesh IS channels, the narrative focused on reconnecting Bangladesh and its citizens with their Muslim roots.

While the South Asian IS supporter channels posted links on Hoop Messenger to groups and channels on other platforms like Rocket.Chat and TamTam, these apps did not draw many South Asian members. As further analyses in this report show, this lapse in platform migration is reflected in the fact that there were very little to no South Asian dedicated groups in Rocket.Chat and TamTam.

With sustained deplatforming efforts, it is highly likely that South Asian followers of IS will continue to encounter problems migrating to lesser-known apps and struggle to garner as much support as they did on such platforms as Telegram and Twitter. Technology companies should maintain pressure on radical groups to prevent them from finding or establishing any safe territory online.

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