IS-NEWS #01, a simple digital leaflet praising Islamist militants for attacking Taliban positions in Afghanistan last month, is the first known NFT produced and a widespread supporter of terrorists, according to former senior US intelligence officials, reports The Wall Street Journal.
This is a sign that Islamic State and other terrorist groups may be preparing to use new financial technologies to circumvent Western efforts to eradicate their online collection funds and exchange of messages.
The NFT contains the Islamic State emblem and was created by a supporter of the group, likely as an experiment to test ISIS’s new outreach and funding strategy. Regulators and national security officials are concerned that terrorists may exploit new financial technologies and markets, including NFTs.
“It was only a matter of time,” said Yaya Fanusie, a former economic and counterterrorism analyst at the US Central Intelligence Agency.
NFT (non-fungible tokens) is a unit of data in a digital database called blockchain, where each NFT can represent a unique digital element, and therefore each of they are not interchangeable. The technology originally emerged as a means of tracking, valuing, and trading digital assets. However, it has much wider applications, such as digital concert tickets and branded collectibles.
IS-NEWS #01 does not appear to have been sold, but its existence in the blockchain, which is distributed across countless systems connected to the Internet, makes it almost impossible for the US Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies to seize it.
“It’s as censorship-proof as you can get,” said Mario Cosby, a former federal intelligence analyst who specializes in blockchain currencies. “TThere’s not really anything anyone can do to actually take this NFT down,” said Cosby, who now works at blockchain analytics firm TRM Labs.
Many social media platforms remove links to offending NFTs, so the technology doesn’t lend itself to explosive circulation on the internet, making tweets or videos go viral. With all that, the more NFTs are distributed across the blockchain, the more people view them.