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How ISIS ran fake channels of CNN and Al Jazeera for over a month on YouTube

Terrorist organisation ISIS reportedly created two fake channels on Google-owned video platform YouTube and Facebook. The YouTube channels claimed to be of global news platforms – CNN and Al Jazeera. This aim was to lend legitimacy to facilitate the dissemination of ISIS propaganda.
A report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue reveals that along with two YouTube channels, they also ran two handles each on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) with support of outlet ‘War and Media’.This campaign went live in March this year. Moreover, the fake accounts designed to resemble established outlets were used on Facebook and YouTube to amplify the reach of the propaganda. These videos remained online for over a month on YouTube. It is not clear when they were removed from Facebook.

What the videos were all about

The videos on these YouTube and Facebook handles not only had fake logos but also news tickers at the bottom of the screen that flashed news stories in accordance with the script or the content playing on the screen – further enhancing the illusion of legitimacy.
These ‘newscasts’ were then spread across social media platforms and reposted by various IS-affiliate handles, the report added.
“Each video focused on an element of IS’ expansion globally, choosing to hone in specifically on Africa and its war with both Russia’s Wagner Group and al-Qaeda, its attacks in Moscow, its attacks on the Nigerian army, and its escalating attacks in Syria,” the report said.
“The group’s faux CNN offering was posted to Facebook from YouTube, labelled as a ‘very important’ video responding to ‘the lies about the Moscow operation.’ Its fake Al Jazeera channel spread the same video, using the Qatari outlet’s branding in Arabic. The videos were viewed 9,400 times on Facebook and shared 3,200 times,” the report said.

What makes this dangerous for YouTube, Facebook and X users

A new tactic of creating fake social media channels of prominent news broadcasters like CNN and Al Jazeera shows that the terrorist organisation’s approach to bypass content moderation on social media platforms has evolved.
Unsuspecting users may get influenced by the “honeypot” campaigns which, the report says, are likely to become more sophisticated, making it even more challenging to control the spread of terrorist content online.

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