Mar 9 2015
Islamic State (ISIS) introduces ‘Khilafah Book’ (Caliphate Book), a social network for jihadists to bypass social media bans by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
Khilafah means “caliphate” in Arabic, a form of Islamic government which is what ISIS is trying to establish in the Middle East. Kilafah Book is being hosted on “5elafabook.com”, which is a domain registered in Egypt. It was created by Abu Musab and states its admin state/province as “The Islamic State” in Mosul.
Motherboard ISIS jihadists are masters of social media, whether it’s for spreading propaganda videos, hijacking popular hashtags to gain a louder voice, or attracting new fighters. This week, an apparent advocate of the group launched a site designed to keep fellow jihadis and supporters in touch.
“Khilafah Book,” or “Caliphate Book,” looks as slick as a professionally crafted, Silicon Valley-based social media site. Using a blue colour scheme, it’s not hard to see the presumably deliberate similarities with Facebook’s design.
In the background, a world map is plastered with images of the Islamic State’s flag in Canada, the United States, South America, Africa, Europe, and Australia. “Connect and share with the people that matters to you,” reads the site in English. “Never miss a thing out! Keep in touch with your fans, customers or loved ones all the time!”
Judging by the generic nature of these statements, which could easily be spouted from any social media project, it seems likely that the site is using a pre-made template, rather than having been built from the ground up.
The site was announced from a corresponding Twitter account on Wednesday, but it’s only started to gather attention now. “Official page of the #Khalafah_book first social networking supporters,” the tweet read, according to a Google translation.
After logging in, the Facebook-inspired design continues. “May God make you a reason in the conversion of Muslims,” an announcement reads in Arabic. On the right-hand side, suggestions of people to follow are listed, as well as what is “trending.” Users can supposedly post photos, video, music, and text, although the site crashed when I tried to type.
The announcement also states that it’s “forbidden [to] add your profile picture on the website,” although it appears that a few users have ignored this advice. The administrator also asks for prolonged verbal abuse to be reported.
At the time of writing, the site is being hosted by US company GoDaddy, according to a WHOIS search. The registrant’s supposed name is Abu Musab, and his obviously fake address is “Islamic State Mosul, Islamic State, 27222.” The registrant country is then listed as Egypt, which may be where the website creator is located, although this cannot be confirmed.
Even if it looks the real deal, connecting to the site has been pretty difficult. Throughout Sunday morning, the site was dropping in and out. I eventually managed to get onto the homepage and take a screenshot and create an account, but the site wasn’t stable. “Site is in its early days,” an announcement reads in Arabic once a user logs into the site.
The creation of this site is presumably in response to the recent trouble that ISIS and its supporters have had on mainstream social media sites, with Twitter banning affiliated accounts outright. After this, ISIS members reportedly threatened employees of Twitter, including its co-founder Jack Dorsey (Dorsey now works as the CEO of Square, a mobile payments company).
However, the ban hammer doesn’t appear to be having much of an effect. A Brookings Institute report published this week found that ISIS may have up to 46,000 accounts.
Even if “Khilafah Book” is a new strategy to subvert the Twitter bans, it seems like an ineffective approach. Surely for its propaganda to be effective, and reach the widest possible audience, ISIS needs to be posting it where the public is, rather than creating its own dedicated site.
Regardless, what this site shows more than anything is the continuing support of ISIS in the digital realm. Social media is as important a battleground for the group as the front lines of Syria and Iraq, and they are not going to leave the space so easily.
Update: The site announced a temporary shutdown “in order to protect the info and details of it’s members and their safety”.