EARLY this week, soon after a pan-India raid led to the detention of 14 men suspected to be ISIS sympathisers, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) followed swiftly in blocking 94 websites related to the ISIS. Except that in spite of the crackdown, ISIS propaganda, which includes ideological tracts and recruitment videos, continue to be easily available for Indian net users. Many of these videos are not buried in the deep recesses of the internet but can be accessed directly through Google.
The Clanging of Swords, a popular jihadist propaganda video, can be easily accessed by a simple Google search. The graphic, four-part video, with each video being at least an hour long, was released over a two-year period. Each video contains footage of combat, executions and ISIS ideology, including its vision of global domination. These videos purportedly played a great role in helping recruit foreign fighters, especially from Western countries.
Apart from these videos, there are ideological tracks and audio messages of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, which continue to be easily accessed. They include tracts like the “Management of Savagery”, which forms the basis of ISIS military and media strategy.
The Maharashtra Police have claimed that based on the profiling of most of those who had been detained, they have come to the conclusion people are more prone to be radicalised by seeing visuals than by reading literature.
“The total jihadi literature and recruitment material that is available is limited. Its dispersal is, however, widened because it is disseminated through various nodes. We shut down one and a new one will pop up within hours. It is difficult to completely control the net but we constantly monitor and shut down websites that disseminate such material,” Inspector General ATS Niket Kaushik said.
Cyber experts claim it is impossible in a democratic country like India to have complete control over the internet. However, they point out that the easy access to such videos is a cause for concern.
The blocking of websites takes place under 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2008, which allows doing so in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence. Police officers claim they are constantly on the lookout of such websites and take remedial measures once they are identified. “You cannot control the internet. There are dark recesses of the net where such things will always remain available. In this case, however, it is surprising to see how easily accessible these videos are. The only explanation is that the uninterrupted streaming of these videos and material could be a bait by the police to see who are the people who access these websites,” Deepak Kor, a cyber security expert, said.