Monday, September 5, 2022

Islamic State Gets Into NFTs

WSJ reported that, what you see on the very left of the above screenshot, is the first documented NFT developed and spread by a terrorist sympathizer. That simple card is applauding Islamist militants for an assault on a Taliban position in Afghanistan last month.

It is a hint that the Islamic State and other terror organisations are planning to utilize developing financial technologies to circumvent Western attempts to destroy their online fundraising and communications.

The NFT, labeled "IS-NEWS #01" and available on at least one NFT trading platform, displays the Islamic State's logo. According to the former officials, it was built by a group supporter as an experiment to try a new outreach and finance approach for ISIS. Regulators and national-security authorities have raised alarm about terrorists' possible use of emerging financial technology and marketplaces, such as NFTs.

An NFT is a data unit that is maintained on a blockchain, which is a database of transactions that are structured without the need for a central trusted authority. The system was first developed to manage, value, and trade digital assets, but creators claim that it has far larger uses, including digital concert tickets and branded collectibles such as digital playing cards.

IS-NEWS #01 does not appear to have been traded, but its presence on the blockchain—distributed across countless systems connected to the internet—makes it nearly impossible for the Justice Department and other law-enforcement agencies to remove it from the internet, as opposed to, say, a news release that lives on a traditional website serviced by a host.

It's as censorship-proof as they come. There isn't much anybody can do to genuinely bring this NFT down.

Because many social-media sites remove links to objectionable NFTs, the technology does not lend itself to the explosive replication that causes tweets or videos to become viral. Nonetheless, the more NFT blockchain facts that are disclosed, the more individuals that see them.

By the end of 2017, ISIS had lost virtually all of the vast territory it had claimed in Iraq and Syria, cutting off its principal source of income. Other financial routes have also been hindered by Western authorities, notably the shutdown of its fundraising and propaganda websites. Social media sites have also been more attentive to politicians' requests to remove postings that they believe violate their code of conduct.

Western authorities are fearful that the group's remnants, both online and on the ground, might spark a rebirth. The United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan last year created an opening for the organization to mount a comeback by seizing regions formerly controlled by their adversary, the Taliban.

Two more NFTs made by the same person on the same day, Aug. 26, bear the characteristics of the Islamic State. One depicts a guy in a lab outfit and gas mask, surrounded by beakers and assault rifles—an Islamic State warrior, according to the caption, instructing pupils how to create bombs. The other advocated for the use of a miswak, or a stick toothbrush, instead of cigarettes.

In addition to its blockchain resiliency, NFTs might provide a method of fundraising and contraband sales for terrorists, weapons traffickers, corrupt regimes, drug cartels, and others, according to authorities.

Transactions in NFT marketplaces may be secret and anonymous, complicating authorities' efforts to disrupt them.

"The capacity to move certain NFTs through the internet without regard for geographical distance and across borders almost instantly renders digital art vulnerable to abuse by those attempting to launder the profits of crime," the Treasury Department noted in a February report.

Analysts who have researched the IS-NEWS #01 NFT believe it is an attempt by an Islamic State supporter to see whether authorities can be avoided and reputable NFT marketplaces would erase or restrict the content's availability.

It's an attempt to figure out how to make content indestructible.

The IS-NEWS #01 NFT and two others from the same developer are not presently available for purchase on the NFT marketplace Rarible or other platforms, but terrorist organizations may certainly fund their activities via the selling of NFTs.

According to a spokesman for OpenSea, one of the marketplaces where the NFT was registered, the ad was removed and the poster's account was terminated. "A zero-tolerance approach for listings that inspire hatred and violence," she said.

The NFT is accessible on IPFS, a technology that stores and retrieves data over a network of internet nodes that would be incredibly difficult to erase.