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The Online Dissemination of Ideological Books on Pro-Al-Qaeda Channels
For years, jihadist organizations have exploited the internet, social media and messaging apps in order to spread their ideology and propaganda, both locally and globally. The rapid evolution of digital technologies has transformed the dynamics of radical mobilization, recruitment and participation. Regardless of whether jihadist groups are carrying out physical jihadist operations, the internet helps them not only survive, but grow.
Jihadist propaganda can be available online for months and even years, and older sources remain useful and are often recirculated. Jihadist terrorist groups understand the importance of online communication networks and, therefore, heavily exploit them. Their propaganda includes different types of material, including photos, videos, magazines and books. This article examines the recent use of the latter.
Frequency and Structure
As of June 2021, some unofficial al-Qaeda (AQ) channels began disseminating several books, containing mostly (but not all) exclusively ideological and religious content. Pro-AQ channels have shared this material on various platforms such as Rocket Chat (a Geo News platform), ChirpWire and Telegram. They are published every five to seven days, and their upcoming publication is usually teased by the release of a picture of the book cover. These pictures often are well designed and eye-catching. The subsequent release of these religious, ideological, and sometimes operational texts generally take place within 24 hours of the teaser. The publication of the texts has remained regular and consistent over the past few months and the pro-AQ channels responsible for their dissemination have yet to be blocked or censored. The latest book was published on October 1, bringing the total number of published texts to 22 (an average of around four per month).
Format and Length
The books are made available in two formats, PDF and Word, and are compressed files which make them easy to download, save and forward to others within messaging applications, via e-mail or republish on social networks. The length of the books vary anywhere from 35 pages to 487 pages, with an average of about 250 pages per book.
It is very important to know the number of users on the platforms which the materials are being published on. On Rocket Chat (a Geo News platform), there are about 2,400 members and on the various ChirpWire channels there are over 1,500 members. On Telegram, it is impossible to know the number of users, since the publication is carried out by an automatic bot. While the number of potential users of channels and groups is already considerably high, it should be noted that the total number of end-users is much higher if we consider that the same material is forwarded and shared on many other channels, groups, and private chats, in addition to the material disseminated by the bots. We could probably assume the material reaches tens of thousands of users. This number of users does not, of course, take into account the number of people the books could reach if physical copies were to be printed and disseminated.
The books address a variety of topics as noted by their titles including:
The Obstacles to Overcome to Reach God’s Love
The Importance of Following the Individual Jihad
The Algerian Jihad, A History
A Lesson by Maulana Doctor Rahman al-Murabit
The Term Victory in the Koran, by Sheikh Harith bin Ghazi al-Nazari
Refuge from Tyrants and Refuge of the Mujahid
Fourth Generation Wars and Recruitment of Militias and Mercenaries
The Virtues of Fighting the Kharijites
Fragments of the History of al-Qaeda narrated by Khabib al-Sudani and Ahmed al-Qusi
Corruption in the Muslim Brotherhood
Finally, it is interesting to note that at a time when official al-Qaeda propaganda has been substantially curbed on social media both quantitatively and qualitatively, these pro-AQ channels have found a loophole. Although the material is not considered to be official AQ propaganda, these channels are able to discreetly publish rich content.
Daniele Garofalo is a researcher and analyst on Jihadist terrorism and an expert in monitoring Jihadist media channels.
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