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Diaspora decentralised social network cannot prevent Islamic State extremist posts

Founders of the decentralised social network Diaspora admit there’s no way to prevent extremist material being posted by Islamic State [IS] militants that are increasingly turning to the social network as an alternative to Twitter.

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A blog post published by the owners explained that the dispersed network of private servers gives it no central control over what is posted therefore making it neigh-on impossible to prevent the material being broadcast.

"There is [therefore] no way for the project's core team to manipulate or remove contents from a particular node in the network [which we call a "pod"]," the blog post explained. "This may be one of the reasons which attracted IS activists to our network."

Diaspora’s central team is currently in the process of contacting the administrators in charge of individual pods, known as podmins, to warn them of the legal implications attached to hosting extremist content.

"Because this is such a crucial issue, we have also accumulated a list of accounts related to IS fighters, which are spread over a large number of pods, and we are in the process of talking to the podmins of those pods. So far, all of the larger pods have removed the IS-related accounts and posts,” Diaspora added.

Twitter had been home to a number of accounts of IS members and supporters until this week when it began to crack down on those sharing graphic images of a video relating to the murder of US journalist James Foley. Diaspora, however, doesn’t have the ability to take the same action and an expert in this type of social network stated that IS turning to Diaspora isn’t a surprise.

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"In terms of the base technology, decentralised services are incredibly difficult for police to get a handle on. Every time they're clamped down on - the services get a bit smarter, a bit better at evading detection,” author Jamie Bartlett told the BBC. "It's absolutely inevitable that organisations like IS are going to be among the early adopters of this sort of innovation."