Extremist Content Online: Pro-ISIS TikTok Users Celebrate Accused Attacker In Zurich Stabbing

(New York, N.Y.) — The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) reports weekly on the methods used by extremists and terrorist groups on the Internet to spread propaganda and incite violence. Last week CEP researchers located nearly a half-dozen accounts glorifying the accused assailant, who pledged his allegiance to ISIS, in the stabbing attack of an Orthodox Jew in Zurich. The accounts also posted a variety of pro-ISIS content. CEP also located an account on Meta-owned Instagram supporting the attacker.

Also, on Instagram, CEP identified 15 accounts posting ISIS and pro-ISIS propaganda, including Amaq posts, al-Naba newsletter pages, and content from the pro-ISIS-K al-Azaim group. On Twitter/X, an account belonging to neo-Nazi leader Christopher Polhaus was found, featuring a pinned tweet praising Adolf Hitler. Additionally, Australian neo-Nazi leader Thomas Sewell encouraged his followers on Telegram to return to mainstream social media platforms like Twitter/X, TikTok, and YouTube.

On Telegram last week, a channel for an extreme right jiu-jitsu team posted photos showing the team participating in a recent competition in Allentown, Pennsylvania, during which members displayed apparel supporting the white supremacist Patriot Front group. Finally on Telegram, the Latvian Active Club chapter announced its renaming to “Action Crew Latvia” due to heightened attention from their government’s security service.

Pro-ISIS TikTok Users Celebrate Zurich Stabbing Suspect

On March 6, CEP researchers found five accounts on TikTok that celebrated the teenager accused of stabbing an Orthodox Jewish man in Zurich on March 2. In a video, the 15-year-old pledged his allegiance to ISIS and called for acts of violence against Jews. The suspect was arrested at the scene after critically injuring the victim. 

The five TikTok accounts, which also posted additional pro-ISIS content, posted the allegiance video of the attacker or photos with accompanying text praising the act of violence. When they were found on March 6, the videos had an average of 442 views, ranging between 144 and 1,186.

“ByteDance-owned TikTok has repeatedly failed to act against accounts glorifying attacks such as this, encouraging additional acts of violence, and uploading terrorist propaganda and clips of attack videos from white supremacist mass shootings. The company should be able to identify and remove this content, especially when it is reported by users,” said CEP researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch. “TikTok cannot continue to permit content on its platform that clearly violates its terms and conditions and encourages others to carry out acts of violence.”

CEP reported the five posts and associated accounts to TikTok on March 6. By March 11, one account had been removed, two additional accounts had the specific post removed, but the accounts remained online.

Pro-ISIS Instagram Accounts Located

In a sample of content located on Meta-owned Instagram on March 6, CEP researchers found 15 accounts that posted ISIS and pro-ISIS propaganda. Accounts posted clips from official ISIS videos and pro-ISIS propaganda videos, Amaq posts, pages from the group’s al-Naba weekly newsletter, and an infographic from the pro-ISIS-K al-Azaim propaganda group. One account with over 500 followers posted a video on March 2 supporting the suspected teenage Zurich attacker, which had 131 likes four days later. Another account posted a compilation of executions from ISIS propaganda videos on February 18, which had 22 likes by March 7.

The 15 accounts averaged 700 followers, ranging between 53 and 4,254. CEP reported the 15 accounts to Instagram on March 6, but all the accounts were still online on March 11.

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ISIS Amaq claims of responsibility posted on Instagram using the “stories” feature. Screenshot taken on March 6.

Neo-Nazi Christopher Pohlhaus Creates New Twitter/X Account

Christopher Pohlhaus, the leader of the neo-Nazi group Blood Tribe, created a new Twitter/X account, with the first post made on March 4. The account’s pinned tweet praised Adolf Hitler. The account had over 200 followers after being active for three days. A Twitter/X account that Pohlhaus previously operated was suspended from the platform in May 2023. On his suspended account, Pohlhaus advertised goods for sale on another website, shared a video of a Blood Tribe rally, and posted white supremacist propaganda. CEP reported the new account to Twitter/X on March 6, but it was still online on March 11.

Australian Neo-Nazi Leader Promotes Use of Mainstream Social Media Platforms

In a Telegram post on March 4, Australian neo-Nazi Thomas Sewell urged his followers to return to mainstream social media platforms, such as “Twitter [X], TikTok, [and] YouTube” to spread their message. Sewell noted that Telegram removed several of his previous accounts and prevented the growth of others, while on Twitter/X, he had almost 10,000 followers and over 130,000 views on his pinned post. He also suggested that his followers promote content on the Gab platform. CEP reported Sewell’s blue check verified Twitter/X account to the platform on December 5, 2023, but it is still online.

Extreme Right Jiu Jitsu Team Announced on Telegram

On March 7, a Telegram channel for an extreme right jiu-jitsu team began posting photos on Telegram. Team members allegedly participated in a recent competition in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Two individuals who are part of the team are shown holding a Patriot Front flag, with one of them wearing a hat with the group’s logo and a t-shirt indicating group membership. The team also launched an Instagram page.

In several areas, Patriot Front members are reportedly involved with Active Clubs. Members of Patriot Front, including their leader Thomas Rousseau, have also been present at the main Active Club mixed martial arts event, the “Frontier” competition, held in southern California. In December, an Active Club chapter in Scandinavia bragged on Telegram that they were recruiting members in gyms. A blog post by the movement’s founder, Rob Rundo, in February 2022 advocated recruiting at seemingly apolitical locations such as gyms and “boxing and MMA tournaments.”

Active Club Chapter Announces Name Change Due to Government “Interest”

On March 7, the Latvian Active Club chapter announced on Telegram that they were changing their name to “Action Crew Latvia” due to “increased interest” from their government’s security service. The post clarified that the name change was occurring “under pressure” but that the change would not mean a shift in their “spirit or… mission.” It is unclear whether the club will undergo any additional changes. The new group name uses the same initials, “ACL,” as before, and the logo is also unchanged, except it now uses “ACL” instead of “Active Club Latvia.”

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ACL logo. Screenshot taken on March 7.

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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