The Cloud Caliphate: Archiving the Islamic State in Real Time

Published: 13 May, 2021
Authors: Moustafa Ayad, Amarnath Amarasingam, and Audrey Alexander

This joint report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point offers a preliminary survey and analysis of one of the largest known online repositories of Islamic State materials in order to increase understanding of how violent extremist groups and their supporters manage, preserve, and protect information relevant to their cause. Seemingly managed by sympathizers of the Islamic State, the large cache of digital files, here nicknamed the “Cloud Caliphate”, provides researchers, policymakers, and counterterrorism practitioners additional insights into how and why groups and their adherents maintain archives of such material.

The core analysis breaks into seven different parts. After reviewing the likely origins of the repository, the first section describes its composition, and the second discusses evidence concerning cyber support from other online actors. Sections three through six explore specific folders within the archive, which pertain to matters concerning the Islamic State’s organizational predecessors and a range of notable leaders, ideologues, and scholars. Section seven of the report highlights a real-world case involving the use of the “Cloud Caliphate” archive by an Islamic State supporter. The report concludes with a reflective discussion that notes potential policy considerations for those tasked with confronting the Islamic State’s exploitation of information and communications technologies.

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