Amazon Web Services Disables ISIS Propaganda Website It Has Hosted Since April
Amazon on Friday night shut down a website used by an Islamic State propaganda branch that celebrated the suicide bombing that killed at least 170 people in Kabul on Thursday after the Washington Post reported that the extremists were relying on company technology to promote extremism.
Nida-e-Haqq, an Islamic State media group that distributes Islamist content in the Urdu language, was using the company’s dominant cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, to host its content, despite the policies of the company banning working with terrorist groups.
Some of that content included posts about the branch of Islamic State-Khorasan that claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, said Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism and has discovered the link with Amazon Web Services. Urdu is widely spoken in neighboring Pakistan and sometimes in Afghanistan itself.
The Nida-e-Haqq app released on Thursday what it claimed to be an image of the suicide bomber wrapped in a suicide vest before an explosion whose victims included 13 U.S. servicemen, further tainting the U.S. withdrawal from the nation after nearly 20 years of war .
“(F) following an investigation, we disabled a website that was linked to this app because it violated the AWS Acceptable Use Policy,” Amazon spokesperson Casey McGee said in a statement. statement emailed Friday night after The Post reported on the SITE findings. .
This policy prohibits customers, among other practices, from using the cloud computing service “to threaten, incite, promote or actively encourage violence, terrorism or other serious harm”.
The source code for the app, Katz said, shows it pulling words and images from a website for the Islamic State’s propaganda arm. The website, the content of which is password protected and could not be reviewed directly by the Washington Post, had been hosted by Amazon Web Services since April, according to online domain records.
“It’s just mind-blowing that even after all these years, ISIS can still find a way to operate a hosting company like Amazon,” Katz said. “Of course, we have to assume that ISIS will always look for ways to bypass security protocols, but this app doesn’t even try to be stealthy. It is obviously filled with official claims from ISIS, the media, and logos of ISIS’s media arms, clear as day. This application was clearly created to keep the message and content of ISIS alive and distributed online… It is clear that the challenge of keeping such content offline is no less important than in years past.
Amazon, like most US tech companies, has policies prohibiting Islamist terrorist groups from using its services. (Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Amazon took a stand in January against Parler, a social media site popular with supporters of former President Donald Trump, severing ties with the site’s failure to adequately monitor hate speech and calls for violence related to the siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The move took Talk offline for weeks and sharpened the political debate over the power of tech companies to determine what appears online.
But the application of the policy seems to have failed in the case of Nida-e-Haqq.
One reason may be that Amazon has not often proactively monitored content from customers, many of whom run widely used commercial websites such as Airbnb, Yelp, and Netflix. On the contrary, its Trust & Safety team, which has fewer than 100 workers, only acts on complaints received.
Despite the size of this team, Amazon is the leading provider of cloud infrastructure services, which allow customers to rent data storage and processing capacity over the web instead of running their own data centers. AWS, which competes with Microsoft and Google, held 41% of the global market in 2020, according to market research firm Gartner.