Security

ISIS exploits AI to disseminate online propaganda

By Omar

An AI-generated journalist character reads a report by ISIS that claimed an April terrorist attack in Moscow. [Amaq News Agency]

An AI-generated journalist character reads a report by ISIS that claimed an April terrorist attack in Moscow. [Amaq News Agency]

KABUL -- The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) is exploiting the growing capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) to create and disseminate propaganda, including fabricating videos of attacks with the aim of deceiving viewers and bolstering its online presence.

To achieve an air of authenticity, ISIS has used AI-generated news anchors.

For instance, in a recent video where ISIS took responsibility for the May 17 attack in Bamiyan province, the group employed an AI-generated presenter dressed in traditional attire and speaking in Pashtu.

Similarly, another AI-produced video featured a fake presenter claiming responsibility for a bombing in Kandahar city that killed at least six civilians and wounded nine others on May 20.

ISIS aims to gain influence within Islamic communities by using AI to create news presented by well-known figures from these communities, said Faisal Hadid, a computer science professor based in Türkiye.

"Many illiterate or poorly educated [viewers] cannot distinguish between AI-generated faces and real ones. ISIS exploits this situation to spread propaganda and deceive the public," he told Salaam Times.

"ISIS has been defeated on the battlefield and is now trying to exaggerate its activities and showcase its power by producing fake news with help from AI," Hadid added.

Deceiving youth

One of ISIS's main objectives in producing AI-generated videos is to build up its ability to dupe the younger generation.

ISIS propaganda on the internet can fool young viewers who lack sufficient knowledge of AI technology, said Zakaria Faizi, 25, a computer science student at a private university (Faizi requested concealing his university's name for security reasons) in Herat.

"The risk of ISIS recruiting Afghan youth with AI is very concerning," he said. "Young [Afghans] who are deprived of education and suffer from unemployment and economic challenges easily fall for ISIS-fabricated videos."

"My advice to the young is not to trust every video or image on the internet," he added. "Many extremist groups like ISIS produce and share phony videos using AI."

ISIS's use of AI in propaganda poses a serious threat, warned Shabir Ahmad Paikar, a computer science professor at a private university in Herat.

He called on AI developers and internet regulators to restrict or even sever ISIS's and other terrorist groups' access to this technology.

"It is necessary to raise awareness among youth about the capabilities of AI and ISIS misuse of it," he said.

"Instead of fabricated and deceptive videos from ISIS, the young should look at the real actions of this terrorist group," he said. "ISIS brutally kills innocents and justifies its crimes through fabricated videos."

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ISIS has been significantly weakened by the killing of its leader, Baghdadi, by American commandos and further crippled by the elimination of other key figures. I believe that the terrorists attacking Afghanistan under the name of Daesh are armed factions supported by the Pakistani intelligence agency aiming to destabilize Afghanistan. Killing foreign guests in Bamiyan and Afghan civilians is an unethical and un-Islamic act orchestrated by Pakistani intelligence. For the past five decades, Pakistan has been responsible for killing Afghans and those who assist them. We urge the Afghan government to apprehend and punish the perpetrators and supporters of such terrorist acts to set a precedent for others. Terrorism is a significant threat that a single country cannot eradicate. The Afghan government should intensify its efforts in this fight. It should acquire weapon and resources from the international community, especially the United States, the European Union, and China, that can help prevent such incidents. The Afghan government should deploy former special forces and commandos, as they are well-trained and experienced in countering terrorist attacks. Additionally, the government should seek assistance from the international community, particularly Turkey and India, to strengthen and train the Afghan army.

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At the moment, there is no possibility that Daesh can become a headache for Afghanistan, because at the moment it does not have any special support, like the Taliban, which found support and finally came to power. The Taliban's control over Afghanistan allows them to effectively counter any threats from ISIS, which remains a relatively small group, and the Taliban rule over the whole of Afghanistan. But what is ruining the situation and spreading fear in people's minds is media-based propaganda. With the introduction of artificial intelligence, we hope that Afghans won't be deceived by it and will avoid hasty judgements. If internal divisions arise, Afghanistan risks fragmenting and descending into internal conflict. We hope to think clearly, and focus on building lives and making progress, rather than destruction.

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