Be careful on your next Instagram exploration – you might find yourself exposed to graphic photos depicting terrorist activity. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) – an independent, non-profit organization – released a report recently alerting that Instagram is home to “a tremendous increase [of use] by online jihadis.”
This follows the rather morbid increase of martyrdom posts on micro-blogging site Twitter in which photos of departed members of jihadi organizations are displayed, sometimes with the dead’s last wishes and calls to action addressed to terrorist factions. Also recently, Twitter was used as a tool to instigate real-life war between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas. Similar activity appears to be infiltrating Instagram as well.
MEMRI has been monitoring the photo-sharing app for four months now, and various allusions to the Al-Qaeda cause have been springing up often, whether they’re quotes from the likes of Osama bin Laden, Anwar Al-Awlaki, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, and Ayman Al-Zawahiri or the veneration of jihadis who have been captured or were successful in attacking Americans.
MEMRI was able to amass quite a few Instagram accounts that regularly posted terrorism-related content, and they included this information in their report as a reference, in case they are systematically taken down. What’s taking Instagram so long in barring this sort of use? A quick visit to the site’s community guidelines will tell you that “illegal content” is prohibited, which includes “photographs of extreme violence or gore.” Anybody who has seen the list of offending accounts can verify that it is rather disturbing to see snapshots of child jihadi fighters wielding rifles or dead Al-Qaeda leaders amid pictures of food and cute pets.
Aside from account suspension, according to the guidelines, appropriate action includes being reported to “the authorities.” For now, all we can do is wait for Instagram to decide whether or not terrorist propaganda and photos of dead jihadis actually warrant account deletion. Our gut says “yes.”