Shai JosopovNew research done by a Hebrew University graduate sheds  light on the so-called “Islamic State’s” propaganda and other activities, both on the “surface web” (the visible Internet) and what is known as  the “Darknet”.

The findings are scheduled to be presented on June 14 as part of an event done in cooperation among Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University, B’nai Brith Canada, and Winnipeg Friends of Israel.
Shai Josopov, Hebrew University Community Ambassador and a graduate of the Swiss Center for Conflict Research, Management and Resolution at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, did research in this area during his studies in the center’s M.A program. In his work, Josopov researched ISIS’s activities online, on both the “surface” web (the regular Internet) and the “Darknet”.
“I wanted to learn more about the ways in which ISIS is using the Internet to achieve its goals in the Western world”, Josopov says. “Since I was mostly interested in its work in the English speaking countries, I decided to focus on ‘ISIS’s activities and propaganda in the Western world, which is targeted towards non-Arabic speaking civilians.”
According to Josopov, his research came up with a number of surprising findings. “It didn’t take very long to find out that ISIS is not just spreading around sporadic propaganda out there, but rather manages a complex communications and marketing network, which is divided into different target audiences, in various languages.” According to Josopov, ISIS has created a large number of marketing and propaganda channels in order to communicate better with Western countries’ civilians.
“It’s much more than just written material or amateur video recordings from the battlefields where ISIS’s fighters are engaged,” he says. “ISIS’s propaganda is produced and published by a designated communication arm, called ‘Al-Hayat media center’, which was established specifically for this purpose. This communications arm operates almost all over the surface web and is distributing various propaganda products in many Western languages, notable for their very high production quality”, says Josopov, adding that “This propaganda is easier to find than one would have imagined”.
Another aspect of Josopov’s research has been ISIS’s activities in the “Darknet”, a term describing websites that, unlike the ones on the surface web, use servers that are not accessible to everyone.
“These networks have a fluid structure”, says Josopov, “making it difficult for authorities to monitor their activities and assess their size”. The biggest and perhaps most advantageous service these websites offer, is the anonymity they offer users. According to Josopov, the “Darknet” has attracted many illegal operations, which are carried out under its covers. Because of this, the “Darknet” has also attracted many terror organizations.
“Unlike the surface web”, says Josopov, “the “Darknet” is a realm ruled by anonymity, and therefore very hard to monitor. This has naturally attracted terror organizations, such as ISIS.”
In order to gain access to the “Darknet”, and orient himself to its workings, as well as learn more about ISIS’s activities there, Josopov  worked with an Israeli hacker who, in accordance with “Darknet” principles, asked to remain anonymous. (He is known only as “M”.)
 “I realized that the sheer size of the Darknet and its complexity would require me to find a ‘tour guide’, says Josopov. “It took me a while, but I was finally able to find a user who was willing to work with me. ‘M’ is a very experienced ‘Darknet’ user and I just knew that I had to include an interview with him, presenting his  knowledge and experience”.
During their interview, “M” (who is 25) said that he started to take part in “Darknet” activities at the age of 15. “I found my way there by chance,” he explained. “ ‘Windows 98’ had a tool called ‘Microsoft Chat’, which allowed ‘Windows’ users from all over the world to talk to each other. I created a username and wandered there for some time until someone sent me a link to a ‘Darknet’ version of a website called ‘4chan’. After I first surfed there, learning more about the world of the ‘Darknet’, it wasn’t very difficult for me to gain access to more websites and other activities”.
According to “M”, in order to distinguish itself in the “Darknet”, ISIS  uploads its posts there under the description “Rekt Thread/War Thread”. “REKT” is a slang word for a brutal massacre”, explains “M”. “Usually, these videos are very graphic and contain scenes from various executions and massacres done by ISIS troops, accompanied by electronic music”, “M” adds.
According to “M”, ISIS’s “Darknet” propaganda is mainly targeted towards underage “Darknet” users. “In most cases, minors are the ones who visit the pornographic forums of the “Darknet”. Since many of them don’t always know what “REKT” means, they innocently click the posts, exposing themselves to ISIS propaganda. “In fact”, adds “M”, “ISIS  is aware of the innocence of young ‘Darknet’ users, exploiting the fact that they can’t tell right from wrong, in order to attract them into its grasp.”
“Each user who sees these videos”, says “M”, “is exposed to ISIS  and its doctrine, under the cover of these propaganda videos. In some cases”, he adds, “they’re actually fascinated by this and are attracted to more ISIS posts, increasing their curiosity and sympathy with the organization and its goals”.
Shai Josopov will give a presentation on the subject of the Darknet later this month, discussing his findings and his work with “M”. The presentation will take place at 7 P.M, Wednesday, June 14th, in the Adult Lounge of the Asper Jewish Community Campus. Admission to the event is free, Guests are welcome to RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The event is age restricted to 14+.