The updated version of Jihadology (written by Tech Against Terrorism)
Why have we updated Jihadology?
Jihadology is widely regarded as an essential resource for those conducting research on jihadi groups, thanks to its collation of extensive amounts of primary source material produced by such groups. However, there have been concerns that the site is used by jihadis who exploit the fact that material on the site is publicly available. As such, Jihadology wanted to find a way to password protect the most sensitive material. In order to make the site more secure whilst ensuring that the site can remain open and continue to increase understanding of jihadism, we have updated the site with the aim of denying jihadis and those vulnerable to recruitment easy access to the most sensitive content hosted on the site.
What have we updated?
The updated version of Jihadology restricts easy access to sensitive content for unauthorized users. Below is a summary of the changes implemented by Tech Against Terrorism in order to make Jihadology more secure:
- Jihadology will be able to password-protect entries containing particularly sensitive content, including material containing violence or inciting to violence
- To access these entries, users will need to register an account on the site to be able to login and view content behind password-protection
- The user registration system will consider whether an applicant has a legitimate research purpose to access Jihadology via a combination of allowing approved email domains register accounts and allowing Jihadology to manually approve applications (more details below)
- Only registered and logged in users will be able to view entries that Jihadology has placed behind a login wall
- When scrolling down the main page, non-registered or logged out users will only be able to see the title and date of password-protected entries, and will be taken to the login / registration page if attempting to access the entry
- To enable password protection of videos hosted on the platform, Tech Against Terrorism has developed a fit for purpose video streaming solution that will now play the videos behind the login
- Warning interstitials will be displayed when accessing sensitive content
- Visibility of original source URLs and imagery for non-registered users has been restricted
How does the user registration system work?
To make Jihadology secure, the new registration ensures that only those with a clearly demonstrated legitimate research interest can register and access all parts of the site. The registration system will automatically accept registrations from certain recognized email domains (for example: .edu, .gov, .org etc). This system shuts out nefarious actors without placing too much burden on the site’s administrator. However, we realize that this alone would not be a perfect solution. For example, researchers with legitimate purpose for using Jihadology might not have an email address comprised by this system. As such, we have created an override function which will allow Jihadology to manually approve applications. Users without the pre-approved email domains who wish to gain access to the site are therefore advised to apply via email to support[@]jihadology[.]net and state their reason for attempting to register. These emails will be examined as quickly as possible.
Which email domains will be able to register automatically?
Due to the sensitive content on Jihadology, we have opted to allow for email domains which indicates association with an institution or an organization that in turn demonstrates legitimate research interest in the material on Jihadology. Examples of such email addresses include top-level domains such as ‘.edu’, ‘.gov’, ‘.mil’, second-level domains such as ‘ac.xx’, ‘gov.xx’, and ad hoc entries such as ‘un.org’. In this ‘whitelist’, we have attempted to include a range of inter-governmental institutions, research organizations, and civil society groups. However, compiling an accurately comprehensive list would be next to impossible. Therefore, we welcome your feedback. If you think your organization should be included in this list, please contact support[@]jihadology[.]net. As mentioned in the answer above, users without whitelisted emails domains will still be able to apply for registration by emailing support[@]jihadology[.]net first, as Jihadology does have the ability to override the automatic whitelist function
How does this work fit in with our commitment to human rights and freedom of expression?
We work actively to promote responsible approaches to terrorist use of the internet in a manner do not have adverse effect on human rights and freedom of speech. For example, we encourage all tech companies that we work with to commit to the Tech Against Terrorism Pledge, which aims companies to think through how they can safeguard freedom of expression and diversity. With regards to our work with Jihadology, we believe that we have found a responsible balance between allowing for the site to continue to operate without removing content in a way that makes the site better equipped to tackle terrorist exploitation of the site. Our solution does not, for example, restrict any speech or expression. What it does restrict is easy access to content for certain actors who one might argue should not be able to view jihadi propaganda. In our view, this is the best solution to ensure that Jihadology can continue to serve its purpose as the world’s largest clearinghouse for jihadi primary source material and original analysis whilst increasing the site’s capacity to safeguard against exploitation by jihadis. On that note, our solution very much highlights that the debate around sensitive online content should not only stand between complete availability or complete removal, as there are several compromise solutions that might be more effective. As an independent and neutral non-governmental organization, we also believe that we are well-placed to carry out the changes implemented.