ISIS Using Artificial Intelligence to Imitate News Shows, including in Iraq, Syria: Report

The attacks in Iran and Russia this year have raised the possibility that ISIS is making a comeback—and with that the first reports of its use of artificial intelligence have emerged.
Imaginary depiction of an ISIS member using AI. (Photo designed by Kurdistan 24)
Imaginary depiction of an ISIS member using AI. (Photo designed by Kurdistan 24)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – ISIS has recently developed a new form of propaganda, as The Washington Post reported on Tuesday. 

Using artificial intelligence (AI), ISIS is creating what appear to be news reports about its terrorist attacks and posting them online.

This practice began four days after a so-called branch of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) attacked a Moscow music hall on March 22, killing 145 people. 

That attack followed an assault on Jan. 3 in Kerman, Iran, which was also claimed by the same branch of ISIS—namely, ISIS-Khorasan. That attack killed over 100 people.

Until then, ISIS appeared to have suffered significantly from the extended U.S.-led war against it. There had been no major attacks outside its core areas—Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq/Syria—for the previous five years, since April 21, 2019, when an Easter Day attack on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka killed 251 people. 

ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack, which, it said, was retaliation for an assault on two mosques in New Zealand the month before. That attack, carried out by a 28 year-old Australian white supremacist, Brenton Tarrant, killed 51 people.

ISIS’s Return?

The attacks in Iran and Russia this year have raised the possibility that ISIS is making a comeback—and with that the first reports of its use of artificial intelligence have emerged. 

ISIS’s use of AI first emerged following the attack in Russia. Four days later, as The Washington Post explained, a short video began to circulate “on a private platform” associated with the terrorist group.

The video was short—just 92 seconds. It featured “a news anchor in a helmet and fatigues.” He claimed that the attack in Moscow had not been terrorism, but part of “the normal context of the raging war between the Islamic State and countries fighting them.”

The video was phony. The “anchor” had been created by artificial intelligence, while the video was “part of a new AI-generated media program called News Harvest,” the Post said.

As it turned out, more “news” videos followed, starting a program which has featured “near-weekly video dispatches about Islamic State operations around the globe,” according to the Post, while the program is “made to resemble an Al Jazeera news broadcast.” 

Background

A week before the Moscow attack, an ISIS supporter advocated the use of artificial intelligence. He used the handle, Al Kurdi 500, but he could have been from any ethnic group and was not necessarily Kurdish.

“It would be great if the brothers produced videos regarding daily news, as an alternative to reading the news in text and looking at images, Al Kurdi wrote, “like how news channels like Al Jazeera” do it. 

“Technology has evolved a lot and this would be easier to do nowadays, especially with the use of AI,” he continued. “Media is as important as physical warfare, or even more. Because it has a very big influence over the people.”

The assault on the Moscow music hall followed a week later, and four days after that, someone using the handle, Hisad, posted the first episode of “News Harvest.”

Since then, six more News Harvest broadcasts have been posted. They have provided “an overview of recent operations by Islamic State affiliates around the globe,” the Post said, including in Iraq and Syria, as well as the African countries of Niger, Cameroon, and Nigeria.