The first known case of a non-fungible token (NFT) created and shared by a “terrorist sympathizer” has emerged, raising concerns that the immutability of blockchain technology could aid in spreading terrorist messages and propaganda.
In a Sunday article in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), intelligence experts said that the NFT could be a sign that the Islamic State and other terror groups are also using blockchain technology to avoid sanctions and raise funds for their terrorist campaigns.
Terrorist group ISIS NFTs discovered through pro-ISIS social-media accounts.
Raphael Gluck, the co-founder of the US-based research firm Jihadoscope, allegedly discovered the NFT in question through pro-ISIS social-media accounts.
The digital token, dubbed IS-NEWS #01, is said to be an image of the Islamic State’s emblem with text praising Afghan-based Islamic militants for attacking a Taliban position.
According to Mario Cosby, a former federal intelligence analyst specializing in blockchain currencies, the user created two more NFTs on Aug. 26: one depicting an Islamic State fighter teaching students how to make explosives and the other condemning smoking cigarettes.
Analysts believe this could indicate that terrorist groups are experimenting with new technology to spread their message and test new funding strategies.
“It’s very much an experiment […] to figure out how to make content indestructible,” Gluck explained.
OpenSea removed the NFTs citing a zero-tolerance policy on inciting hate and violence.
The digital token was allegedly listed on the NFT marketplace OpenSea. However, the company quickly removed the listing and terminated the poster’s account, citing a “zero-tolerance policy on inciting hate and violence.”
The trio of NFTs were also reportedly available on the NFT marketplace Rarible and several others before being removed. Even though none of the NFTs appear to have been traded, Cosby believes their existence is cause for concern because “it’s as censorship-proof as you can get,” adding, “there’s not anything anyone can do to take this NFT down.”
Security experts have previously expressed concern about the potential for terrorists to use emerging technologies and markets, such as NFTs, to fund attacks in the future.
The US Treasury Department issued a February study highlighting the market growth for NFTs as a potential source of concern. In March, Israeli authorities seized 30 crypto wallets from 12 exchange accounts linked to Hamas, a militant group based in Gaza.
Last April, Matthew Levitt, director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Jeanette and Eli Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said that while crypto has been linked to several terror financing cases, “it has not yet become a primary means of terror financing.”