Islamic State supporters set up Facebook rival
Supporters of Islamic State have set up “5elafabook”, a website that aims to become an alternative to mainstream social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter amid a crackdown against the group’s online followers.
The website, which aims to support content in seven languages including Portuguese and Javanese, is hosted by London-based web hosting company GoDaddy.
5elafabook models itself on Facebook, with users able to create their own online profiles complete with avatars and personal information. The site also boasts a messaging service and a side-bar highlighting hashtags trending on the site.
The network’s name is taken from the Arabic word for caliphate, khilafa; “5”, in the site’s name, comes from that number indicating “kh” when used in Arabic. IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself head of a “worldwide caliphate” last June.
Despite its sophisticated design and capabilities, the new online service is in its early days, and suffers from frequent blackouts due to site maintenance and capacity problems.
A message in Arabic on each user’s home page urges browsers to “work to spread the site on social media and elsewhere - it remains quite unknown”.
Another message warns that there is a “total and complete ban” on users uploading personal images of themselves, and advises IS supporters to have “patience” in their dealings with non-supporters.
In a final message at the bottom of each page, the site’s administration stresses that 5elafabook was not established directly by IS, but that the site pledges “complete and utter loyalty to IS and our brothers, who are united in the East and in the West”.
The site’s establishment comes a week after IS supporters promised to launch a “real war” against the administration of Twitter, the social media site that has a policy of shutting down accounts of IS followers.
There were up to 90,000 Twitter accounts active in spreading IS propaganda in 2014, according to a report by Brookings, and the wildly popular site say they have “in excess of 100 people” working day and night to investigate complaints about users on a range of issues.
Up to 2,000 IS-linked accounts were shut down over a seven-day period in late February-early March.
In response to the purge, IS supporters posted a message to JustPaste.it, a text-sharing service popular with extremists, threatening to kill Twitter employees.
“Your virtual war on us will become a real war on you. You … kept closing our accounts on Twitter, but we always come back."