The Islamic State extremist group began using a social networking website with less restrictions on users after other social media sites, Twitter and YouTube in particular, removed content related to the group.
The social network called Diaspora lets users control their own personal data rather than storing the information itself, and it allows users to designate their own servers to host their data.
“If we built this in a centralized structure, our code base would be like this,” co-founder Daniel Grippi told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2012, putting his hands close together. “But because we’re federated, it’s like this,” he said, moving his hands far apart, indicating a wider distribution.
The Islamic State, which has distributed DVDs, pamphlets and CDs to spread its message, also uses social media to post content and try to recruit followers.
But after posting graphic footage of the slaying of journalist James Foley this week, Twitter shut down a number of the group’s accounts and YouTube took down the graphic video.
The Islamic State then began using Diaspora. “There is no central server, and there is therefore no way for the project’s core team to manipulate or remove contents from a particular node in the network,” the Diaspora team explained in a blog post. “This may be one of the reasons which attracted IS activists to our network.”
The Diaspora administrators said they were working with their “community members” to take down the Islamic State’s content, and later reported that all Islamic State accounts had been closed.