A report from the Wall Street Journal has uncovered the existence NFTs that sympathize with an extremist group, the Islamic State.
This is the first known example of an NFT being created and marketed by an individual who actively supports the organization, and represents a broader shift in the way terrorist groups operate online.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the NFT was called “IS-NEWS #01”, and included Islamic State symbols. Former US intelligence officials, speaking to the Wall Street Journal, said the token would serve as a kind of test, to gauge what potential reach could be.
The effectiveness in NFTs for terrorist messages is difficult to measure, but the nature of digital assets on the blockchain present a challenge to law enforcement officials who look to censor such content from the Internet.
As individual marketplaces can remove NFTs, data points on the blockchain which act as a proof of its token’s existence remains behind. As WSJ points out, a platform named the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), is capable of storing and retrieving data across a collection of Internet nodes, meaning the extreme NFTs can still be accessed using this system.
In addition to OpenSea, the NFT was briefly available on Rarible as well, another NFT marketplace, before being removed. NFTs could be theoretically used to raise funds or launder money via a marketplace. Extremists can coordinate a series of sales before supervisors have time to react. Since these transactions take place on the blockchain, it is more difficult to trace their origin than using traditional financial channels.
The creator of IS-NEWS #01 was discovered by Raphael Gluck, an intelligence analyst who founded Jihadoscope (a research firm monitoring jihadist activity), using publicly available information across ISIS social media accounts to trace its origin. In addition, he revealed two other NFTs with similar messages, mentioning that the sudden emergence of Islamic State NFTs is “an experiment to find ways to make the content indestructible.”
Uncharted territory – Even if the creator’s account was immediately deleted by OpenSea, it remains to be seen how major marketplaces react to a more concerted effort to spread the views of the advancing extremists.
The crypto world has long been a center of illegal activity because of blockchain’s anonymity and the ability for users to transfer funds without needing to be in the same geographic location.