In the past week and a half, this blog has twice covered the Islamic State’s Google+ page (here and here). Although there was no sure way of verifying that it was official, which it claimed to be, nevertheless the page was frequently updated with the latest Daesh propaganda, and was very serious in tone, save for the incongruous inclusion of comedian Jim Gaffigan in its circle.
As preparation for a potential future column on websites hosting terrorist activity, I e-mailed Google seeking comment on the fact that Daesh was using the search engine’s dwindling social media platform.
Although Google did not respond, nevertheless I discovered yesterday evening that the Islamic State page was no longer up. It went from this:
So was my request for comment responsible for Google removing the page? That is unclear, because Google has not responded to my multiple requests for comment. Although the timing makes that a not unreasonable assumption.
To my consternation, the Islamic State page actually reappeared earlier today, then once again was down.
Whether websites should host terrorist groups is debatable. On the one hand, there is merit to allowing them to act online, where their activity can be monitored continually. And their postings can also produce good intel (including some used by this blog), perhaps even inadvertently giving something away such as their location.
Matthew Prince, CEO of the web content management firm CloudFlare, which is accused of serving pro-Daesh websites, said law enforcement asks the company not to take down websites, according to The Register.
On the other hand, giving terrorists a platform allows them to disseminate information in a way they deem fit. Their propaganda might compel others to join their cause, and allow them to coordinate and organize their actions in a way not easily done without use of the Internet.
This marks the second time a page hosted by Google has changed subsequent to coverage by Thought Front. Previously, this blog reported that the search engine said that the US runs the Islamic State, only for the page to change later. Again, there was no response from Google to a request for comment, so no hard conclusions can be drawn as to what compelled Google to make the change.