Investigations by The New Daily have revealed a website promoted as the hub for a new Islamic State 24/7 global TV channel was registered through an Australian company, but fears of local involvement in the website’s production have been dismissed as fanciful.
Last week, Jihadist-linked social media sharing of the khilafalive.info website spiked. The site was purportedly created as a propaganda for Islamic State.
News website Vocativ unearthed a teaser trailer being distributed among Islamic State-affiliated internet forums, promoting programmes listed for broadcast on the website.
A new series from British ISIL hostage and war correspondent John Cantlie was promoted, in addition to a weekly programme called ‘Time to Recruit’.
The website, which reportedly hosted a holding image for the TV channel accompanied by video and music before becoming inaccessible on Saturday, was registered with leading Australian domain name provider Melbourne IT Ltd.
Markwell intellectual property lawyer Victor Ng, a specialist in Australian domain name legal issues, told The New Daily that while anybody in the world could register with an Australian company, it meant the costs would be more expensive and the website would fall under Australian jurisdiction.
“It is odd they would choose an Australian registrar – there are global and US domain companies who do it for cheaper, so unless you have some connection to Australia or want to, it indicates to me at a gut level that it could be an Australian registrant,” he said.
Melbourne IT chief customer officer Brett Fenton dismissed concerns of local involvement, however.
“Melbourne IT has a lot of partners globally, we have a partner channel, and that particular domain was registered through the Yahoo partner channel, and looks like it’s been registered out of the US, so to claim Australians were involved in this process, that’s a very long bow to draw,” he said.
Mr Fenton said the registrants likely paid their money to Yahoo in the US, and given Yahoo isn’t a registrar in its own right, the company registered the domain through Melbourne IT, their global partners in the sector.
He said the domain name appeared to still be working and that the server is responding, which means that either configuration changes have been made to deny requests to serve that particular site, or that the people who own the site have decided to take the content down themselves.
If inflammatory content does reappear on the webpage, Mr Fenton said there was action the company could take.
“Melbourne IT’s terms and conditions are very clear in terms of the use of private registrations for things that might be deemed unconscionable conduct, in those cases we reserve our right to cancel that service including giving details of the registrant on to law enforcement,” he said.
Questions have also been raised about whether the 24/7 television channel will actually be broadcast on the now-defunct khilafalive.info website, and if it does, whether it has official backing.
Online extremist expert and Brookings institution associate J.M. Berger told The Washington Post that no official Islamic State outlets had yet commented on the website specifically, despite it being registered back on December 9 of last year.
“My best guess is this is a fanboy effort,” he said.
Prominent author and speaker on terrorism and former senior official of the United Nations, Andrew MacLeod, told The New Daily that the likelihood of unofficial involvement in creating and advertising the website should be cause for greater, not lesser concern.
He said the effort was symptomatic of the Islamic State strategy to encourage “lone wolves” to take action without official direction.
“One of the smartest moves I’ve seen from a strategic perspective – even though I morally disagree with what they are doing – is this call for lone wolf attacks,” he said.
Mr MacLeod noted that the power of the internet has given extremists access to a vast pool of potential recruits that even five years ago they would not have been able to reach.
“If this is a couple of disenfranchised crazy people who say ‘look I don’t want to kill anyone, but how else can I get some sort of notoriety, oh I know maybe I can help make a TV station for them’, well propaganda is often an important weapon in war,” he said.
“This is another reach out by [Islamic State] to disenfranchised people to use their skill set – whatever that skill set may be – to achieve that horrible murderous aim that they have.
“This change of tactic by the terrorists to use lone wolf attacks shows how urgent it is for the west to adjust tactics to defeat them.”
The Islamic State does have regional broadcasting arms already, including the Libya-based satellite TV network Tawheed, and the Al-Bayan radio station in Iraq.
British hostage John Cantlie, one of the main focuses of the trailer, has fronted six videos for Islamic State so far, the most recent a “travelogue” promoting the city of Mosul in Iraq.
The proposed ‘Time to Recruit’ program was flagged in the trailer as a weekly segment covering the recruitment of young would-be jihadists to Islamic State ranks.
Australian Communications and Media Authority media officer Blake Murdoch advised The New Daily complaints had not been made about the khilafalive.info website, as far as he was aware.
He said if complaints were received, the hosting location of the site would need to be established before action could be taken.