Islamic State tests NFTs for recruitment and financing

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An Islamic State sympathizer has posted a series of NFTs spreading messages of support for the terror group, sparking concerns from security analysts of a potential resurrection, Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports.

The first of three NFTs, titled IS-NEWS #01, spreads word of an Islamic State attack in April on a Taliban vehicle that supposedly wounded four of its members.

“By the grace of Allah Almighty, the soldiers of the Caliphate detonated an explosive device on a vehicle of the apostate Taliban militia, in the [Khogyani] area in [Nangarhar], which led to its damage and the wounding of 4 members in it, and praise be to Allah,” the NFT reads in both Arabic and English.

The bombing had been reported by outlets yet unconfirmed — according to another source, four members were killed and one injured.

Analysts say the NFTs, which were posted on marketplaces including OpenSea, Rarible, and IPFS, are a test by the Islamic State for recruitment and funding potential. 

The technology’s permanence has long been a concern for its ability to spread hate messages and incite violence. Now that fear appears to have come to fruition.

The series of NFTs are still up on Rarible (source: WSJ).

Read more: OpenSea has 99 problems — insider trading was just one

“It was only a matter of time,” former CIA economic and counterterrorism analyst Yaya Fanusie told the WSJ. Indeed, while OpenSea appears to have removed the series, marketplace Rarible and IPFS still host the NFTs. While none are currently for sale, analysts warn that it could be a lucrative way to fund a resurgence.

NFT marketplaces have historically struggled to clamp down on dangerous content, leaving them vulnerable to misuse.

The second NFT in the series depicts an Islamic State member teaching others how to make explosives. An assault rifle leans against the wall.

The third discourages smoking cigarettes, promoting the use of a miswak (stick toothbrush) instead. Under Islamic State rule, smoking was a crime that carried the penalty of a fine and multiple lashings — yet before its collapse, it capitalized on underground cigarette smuggling to fund its terror campaigns.

The Islamic State lost control of Afghanistan to its enemy, the Taliban. However, following the departure of US troops, the region could be once again at risk of war should they successfully recruit and finance operations, WSJ reports.

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Update 11:07 UTC, Sept 12: A spokesperson for Rarible reached out on September 5 confirming the NFTs and its owner had been removed from its platform.