Islamic State incorporates NFTs into its funding strategy: WSJ

Security experts raise their concerns about the terror groups’ usage of NFTs for recruiting and funding, following the discovery of an NFT minted by an ISIS sympathizer.

A group of unrecognizable armed men, terrorism concept.

Islamic State seems to have started using NFTs to sidestep authorities’ efforts to eradicate their online campaigning and fundraising, The Wall Street Journal wrote in its Sunday article, citing former senior U.S. intelligence officials. According to the experts, the ISIS-themed NFTs found on Rarible and OpenSea may indicate that the terrorist group is preparing for the wide-scale adoption of emerging financial technology.

In August, an anonymous “terrorist sympathizer” created and listed three NFTs that bear the Islamic State emblem. The first one titled IS-NEWS #01 represents an official message praising ISIS militants for a successful attack on a Taliban position in Afghanistan last month, and two others show a picture of an ISIS explosives specialist wearing a lab suit and gas mask, and a card condemning cigarette smoking.

Currently, none of these NFTs are available for sale, and OpenSea has already taken down the listing, citing “a zero-tolerance policy for listings that incite hate and violence.” Experts believe that these NFTs were likely an experiment run by ISIS tech-savvy members to test how quickly marketplaces would delete their content and whether law enforcement agencies can take it off the Internet.

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“It’s very much an experiment…to find ways to make content indestructible,” said Raphael Gluck, co-founder of the U.S.-based research firm Jihadoscope, who was the first to come across the NFTs while researching ISIS social media accounts.

“The ability to transfer some NFTs via the internet without concern for geographic distance and across borders nearly instantaneously makes digital art susceptible to exploitation by those seeking to launder illicit proceeds of crime,” the U.S. Treasury Department has warned in its February study.