ISIS Using NFTs as New Tool of Terror
September 9, 2022

A recent non fungible token (NFT) created by a terrorist sympathizer indicates a potential new future for the Islamic State garnering funds. Last month, a digital card was minted that praised a mosque bombing in Afghanistan. This attack wounded 23 and killed at least 18, including a Taliban leader.

According to senior United States intelligence representatives, this is the first known NFT created and circulated by a terrorist sympathizer. Officials fear that NFTs will create a way for arms dealers, terrorists, corrupt governments, cartels, and traffickers to make transactions.

The NFT, called “IS-News #1,” bears the ISIS emblem. The creator of IS-News #1 created two other NFTs the same day. Some platforms where the NFTs were registered, like OpenSea, removed the listing and the associated account. However, it may nearly impossible to monitor all places the NFT could be sold. 

The NFTs were discovered by jihadoScope, a U.S.-based research firm, through pro-ISIS social media accounts. One showed a depiction of a person in a lab coat and gas mask surrounded by beakers and assault rifles. According to the caption, it is an ISIS fighter learning how to make explosives. 

“The ability to transfer some NFTs via the internet without concern for geographic distance and across borders nearly instantaneously makes digital art susceptible to exploitation by those seeking to launder illicit proceeds of crime.” –US Treasury Department


A destroyed car with ISIS flag in Aleppo, Syria. June 17, 2017 (Photo by Mohammad Bash)

It is believed the bombing referenced by the NFT was carried out by the Afghanistan sect of ISIS. Though both the Taliban and ISIS are Sunni affiliated, there have been deadly clashes between the two groups. It is feared that the United States pulling out from Afghanistan will enable an ISIS comeback by giving the group an opportunity to seize land currently held by the Taliban.

By the end of 2017, the ISIS caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria had been dismantled. This cut off a major source of funding. Efforts by both social media engines and Western authorities to shut down online propaganda further hindered ways in which ISIS garnered funding. NFTS give ISIS an avenue to dodge attempts to quash online funding. The lack of central authority in NFT trading renders NFTs essentially above censorship. 

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