Job-wanted ads on Twitter are a common annoyance and usually just get ignored, but one posted last Thursday caught the Twitterverse by surprise.
The ad was posted by terror group Daesh, which is looking to hire translators, newspaper editors, computer programmers, sound engineers, publishers and designers to help the group in their online media campaign. The group even went so far as to request very specific skill sets, including PHP and HTML, two programming languages common on the Internet, and even MySQL, an open-source database program.
To add insult to injury, the background of the Daesh tweet showed a photoshopped image of the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, presumably an attempt by the group to give itself some legitimacy.
Twitter users quickly started asking just why Twitter would allow an extremist group to recruit so blatantly on social media. While Twitter could not be reached for comment, the answer from local tech experts and analysts is simple: There is neither the will nor the technology to stop it.
To start off, Twitter does not allow Daesh to have unfettered access to its platform. Twitter itself has drawn death threats from terror group following the shuttering of a number of Daesh accounts. Twitter will block accounts that issue “direct, specific threats of violence against others” according to its terms of service. However, some accounts still remain open.
Jai Prakash, systems engineer at Fortinet Middle East, said tools exist to block a person from posting on the Internet, based on a range of parameters that include domain names, IP addresses and key words. Once an online-profile has been identified, a company can block or quarantine a person.
But he said that there is no “silver bullet.”
Another method for blocking such posts would be for social networks to use identify verification technology, but most have avoided that out of fear that such a move would discourage access across the board and hurt advertising. Implementing such a system would also be time consuming and increase costs.
“It is difficult to block a person 100 percent from entering the Internet without he [attacker] disclosing his identity. If he can reveal his identity, there are many ways to block a person,” said Ihad Moawad, VP for Mediterranean Middle East and Africa at Trend Micro.
There is also no guarantee that users will not find a way around such technology.
“There is no way to check for identity theft online. It is a tedious process and doesn’t mean it has to be true always. That is why the UAE is becoming very strict on social media messages,” said Bahaa Hudairi, senior security consultant ay McAfee Middle East.
“If a suspicious person is misusing a legitimate account or my machine, then companies like Google or Facebook informs the legitimate users either through an email or mobile phone,” he said.
He said that identity theft is a big issue and our machines should have proper security settings in place.
Another proposed solution would be geolocation blocking; basically, blocking anyone from a certain geographical area, such as Syria or Iraq, from accessing a social media site. However, the Internet was build to survive any internal breakdowns, which means there exists a number of methods, including proxy servers and virtual private networks, technologies which can fool a machine into thinking a person is somewhere he is not, to work around geolocation blocking.
Even where it possible to completely block someone from the Internet, some law-enforcement agencies, especially those in the US, do not want block Daesh account, since they feel these account give law enforcement a window into the terrorist’s world.
That viewpoint does not sit well with many. Just last week Hillary Clinton, a Democratic frontrunner for the US presidency, said Daesh should be removed completely from Twitter. Her argument was that while law enforcement agencies may get a superficial look into the world on the terrorists, conversations between Daesh and its recruits quickly move from the public view into encrypted channels that law enforcement cannot access.
By Scott Shuey
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