On Sunday, Da’esh supporters on Telegram began circulating links to Amaq and Nashir pages found on a social network start-up out of San Francisco called Baaz.
What does this mean? I do not think this is a sign that Da’esh supporters will be flocking to a new platform, rather I believe it is a sign that supporters are still actively innovating ways to reach a larger audience. This is important as Telegram is not social media, and the larger platforms have measures in place that make it difficult for supporters to maintain accounts. However, networks like Baaz offer interesting options to a movement that is struggling.
What is Baaz?
Per its website Baaz “is a next generation social media platform created with a multi-national audience in mind. By using powerful analytics, trend analysis, and advanced natural language processing technology, our platform provides relevant and reliable news and information to users worldwide.” What this signifies is that Baaz offers a social network consolidation service that streamlines your experience on all social media platforms you belong to into one location. You can link all your social media accounts from a pool of 220 they support. Further, by gathering data on an individual from all their connected social networks their “natural language processing (NLP) algorithm surfaces trending stories within a subject, location, or community in English or Arabic.” From a perspective of spreading propaganda this provides some interesting opportunities to a movement like Da’esh.
Other interesting features of this service is the “Baaz Discussion” to create you own personal discussion networks of those who you want to follow. This echoes the channel function of Telegram however spread across multiple platforms as there is a universal share function within Baaz, whereby with one click you can share across multiple networks at once, which also ensures consistency across all your platforms you are sharing to.
Now what this implies is not that Baaz is the next frontier for Da’esh and its supporters, rather it is a possible direction they are looking to go and highlights challenges we will face as a community that looks to combat terrorism, extremism and hate speech. From an efficiency perspective, this service and similar services offer powerful means of spreading propaganda rapidly and efficiently. Even if you account does not survive the golden hour prior to deletion by platform like Facebook and Twitter, it can act as an efficient launching pad, though this remains to be seen. Ultimately Da’esh is experimenting at the moment and I expect they will keep doing so to find the next tool they will use. As the ground war continues to push forward, what will be done about the digital caliphate?
What I would like to highlight is that this does not mean all supporters will flock to this new app, it does not offer encryption, does not offer secure messaging and as of this morning Baaz had taken down the Amaq and Nashir profiles. Rather, what I have noticed that Amaq and Nashir have been experimenting with different platforms from which to share their official news reports. These reports are not necessarily targeted only at supporters but to non-supporters and the media as well who have adopted a trend of sharing these online (I have been guilty of this myself, as many of us have) for educational purposes or for news reporting. Da’esh is looking to use the power of web 2.0, to continually get its message out to anyone who is willing to hear. In particular, we have a responsibility as civil society to respond to this by not sharing their propaganda, by not over reacting to every police operation and assuming it is a terrorist attack. We need to change the way we consume media and how we present media online. Until we change our personal behaviours tech will be leveraged against us by those who wish to do so (this goes beyond terrorist orgs.) Just some food for thought.