Orkut Home to Osama Bin Laden Fan Clubs

Posted on March 8, 2006

USA Today has an article that says Google's Orkut service is being used for recruitment by Al-Qaeda. Orkut is an invite-only social network service that allows members to create communities and share forums and other communication tools.
Al-Qaeda sympathizers are using Orkut, a popular, worldwide Internet service owned by Google, to rally support for Osama bin Laden, share videos and Web links promoting terrorism and recruit non-Arabic-speaking Westerners, according to terrorism experts and a survey of the sites.
Orkut is similar to Friendster and MySpace but the USA Today article singles out Orkut as a favorite overseas. One community that support Bin Laden has over 2,000 members according to the article.
Militants, too, are flourishing on websites. On Orkut, at least 10 communities are devoted to praising bin Laden, al-Qaeda or jihad (holy war) against the United States. They can be found easily through a simple English-language search of the site. The largest bin Laden community has more than 2,000 members, according to Orkut's tracking data, available on the site. It has a link to the site of the Islamic Army in Iraq, the group that claimed responsibility for and released a video of a bombing Dec. 2 that killed 10 Marines in Fallujah.
Al-Qaeda also trades links and videos in Orkut.
Despite Iran's actions, Orkut's size offers a measure of protection from outside interference that attracts terrorism sympathizers. "It's difficult for Saudi Arabia, for example, to censor that whole website" because so many citizens use it for legitimate purposes and would notice if it were shut down, Katz says. Orkut users who are members of communities such as "Al-Qaeda" and "Jihad Videos" take advantage of this to trade information as well as to provide links to other radical websites.
It shouldn't really be a surprise that terrorist organizations would also want to make use of tools like Orkut that make group communication easier but it is depressing to learn that there are so many Al-Qaeda groups using Orkut --including some with thousands of members. The article contained one statement from Google about terrorist groups using Orkut.
Google, which operates Orkut, says it tries to balance the free flow of information against the appearance of objectionable material by keeping intervention to a minimum. Google spokeswoman Debbie Frost says the service may remove obscene, defamatory or otherwise objectionable material from Orkut sites "but has no obligation to." Frost did acknowledge that Google deleted some terrorism-related content that violated Orkut's published terms of service after USA TODAY inquired about it.

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