After having used the Internet profusely for propaganda and recruitment, jihadist organisations have realised that investigators are gleaning crucial information online and are increasingly concealing their web presence, experts say.
Apart from recent orders given to fighters to limit their exposure, erase the footprint of their online activity and avoid revealing too many place names or faces, the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front groups are increasingly using the “Dark Web” — the hidden part of the Internet protected by powerful encryption softwares.
“Sometimes we get the geographical location of some fighters thanks to Facebook,” Philippe Chadrys, in charge of the fight against terrorism at France’s judicial police, said earlier this week.
“Some even publish it on the public part of their account. That gives us elements to build a case. Because of course we don’t go to Syria, we have no one on the ground, and we lack proof.”
In November, Flavien Moreau, a 28-year-old jihadist who travelled to Syria and then returned to France, was jailed for seven years exclusively on the basis of what he posted online.
And those who just months ago had happily posted videos, photos of themselves holding Kalashnikovs or of beheadings on Facebook have now realised that they were single-handedly building a case against themselves, if they ever decided to come home.
“We are starting to notice the beginnings of disaffection with Facebook — they have understood that’s how we get incriminating evidence,” said Chadrys.