Amazon disables ISIS propaganda website using AWS to host content (updated)

·Associate Editor
·3 min read

The Islamic State's propaganda arm used Amazon Web Services to host content promoting extremism, according to The Washington Post. Nida-e-Haqq, the group's media arm, posted messages on the website in the Urdu language, including ones celebrating the recent suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 170 people. Since Amazon's policy bars clients from using its services to incite violence and terror, the company pulled the website after The Post alerted it to its existence. 

The website Amazon disabled provided content for the Nida-e-Haqq app, which recently showed an image of the Kabul bomber wrapped in a suicide vest. It's currently password-protected and not viewable, but it's been active since at least April, based on the online domain records The Post saw. Amazon spokesperson Casey McGee told the publication in a statement: "(F)ollowing an investigation, we have disabled a website that was linked to this app as it was in violation of the AWS Acceptable Use Policy." 

Taliban and extremist-related content is the latest issue social networks, and clearly, hosting services like Amazon's, have to grapple with. The organization has been using services like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp to spread its message, and the websites now have to decide if they need to update their policy on how to deal with Taliban content and to make sure their existing rules on violence and terror are properly enforced.

Amazon didn't say how Nida-e-Haqq managed to evade detection for at least four months when it wasn't even trying to hide what kind of content it posted, but it's very much possible that the company simply didn't know the website existed. As The Post said, Amazon may not be proactively policing its clients' content, relying instead on the complaints it gets. 

Back in January, it suspended Parler's AWS hosting services after it found multiple posts on the social network "that clearly encourage and incite violence." Parler sued Amazon, claiming antitrust violations, but the company said it sent the website several warnings about violent posts on its platform before the takedown. Ultimately, a judge shot down Parler's attempt to get AWS to restore its service, citing the dangers posed by "inflammatory rhetoric" found on the social network.

Update 8/28 12PM ET: An AWS spokesperson stressed to Engadget that it was only the website running on AWS, not the app itself, and said company staff "act quickly" whenever there's a violation of the Acceptable Use Policy. You can read the full statement below.

"The app referenced by the Washington Post is not running on AWS. However, following an investigation, we have disabled a website that was linked to this app as it was in violation of the AWS Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). The AWS AUP prohibits the use of our services to threaten, incite, promote, or actively encourage violence, terrorism, or other serious harm. When we receive reports of potential violations of our AUP, we act quickly to investigate and take action to disable prohibited content."

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