ISIS Alternative to Facebook Suspended Day After Launch

Difficulties in establishing social media alternative highlight challenges faced by backers of Iraq and Syria-based militants in spreading message, recruiting online.

Noah Browning
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A screenshot of 5elafabook.com, the ISIS alternative to Facebook.
A screenshot of 5elafabook.com, the ISIS alternative to Facebook.
Noah Browning

REUTERS - Facing a ban from mainstream online social networks Facebook and Twitter, supporters of ISIS, or the Islamic State, appear to have launched their own "caliphate book."

But 5elafabook.com was offline on Monday just a day after its launch and its Twitter account was suspended, highlighting the challenges faced by backers of the ultra-violent militants based in Iraq and Syria in spreading their message and recruiting online.

The amateur page showed a map of the world dotted with ISIS' trademark Arabic insignia and was crafted by Socialkit, a program that lets users produce do-it-yourself social networks.

It was unclear who created the site or how many members it attracted. A banner message in its current form said it had temporarily suspended operations to "protect the information and details of its members and their safety."

"5elafabook is an independent site and not sponsored by the Islamic State. We reiterate that the purpose of launching the site was to clarify to the whole world that we do not only carry guns and live in caves as they imagine ... we advance with our world and we want advancement to become Islamic," it added.

Online supporters of the group wondered in an web forum whether platforms like 5elafabook could be trusted or whether they could be used by ISIS' many enemies to gain intelligence, according to militancy watchdog SITE Intelligence Group.

"There is no secure website, even if it did belong directly to the Islamic State, because the servers are controlled by the governments, which can take all the IP addresses of those who visited the website," said a user calling himself Taqni Minbar.

ISIS militants have relied heavily on social media networks for coordination and communication, and the militants use them to publish shocking videos of beheadings and other violent acts against their enemies.

Twitter Inc. and United States law enforcement are investigating alleged threats against the company's employees by the group's online backers, the company said last week, as Twitter and Facebook work to close accounts spreading ISIS' message.

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