SoundCloud faces wave of jihadi postings
Berlin-based SoundCloud, which allows anyone to share audio files online, plays host to huge numbers of jihadi accounts and postings supporting the Islamic State (Isis). But the uploads do not contravene German law and are not being caught by the startup's moderators.
A search for the word “jihad” in Arabic on the site returned page after page of matches on Monday, although it was impossible to say how many track postings there were as SoundCloud's counter only goes up to 500.
Many feature amateur images from Middle Eastern conflicts, including men brandishing black Isis flags and Kalashnikov rifles, or embellished propaganda images of figures such as Osama bin Laden.
There are also several accounts whose names are variations on Isis and Islamic State.
When contacted by The Local, a SoundCloud spokeswoman said that the site has "a dedicated Trust and Safety team" which was responsible for "dealing with all reports of suspicious or illegal on-site behaviour, including the removal of content that supports or promotes terrorist activity".
But the most popular pro-jihad accounts have existed for over a year, posting tracks which have accumulated thousands of plays and been shared and liked dozens of times.
Commonly posted content includes Nasheed songs which have been used by Salafists to accompany propaganda videos.
Three Nasheed “battle songs” by former Berlin rapper Denis Cuspert, who went by the name Deso Dogg before his conversion to radical Islam, were banned by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM) in 2012.
Cuspert has since left Germany to fight for Isis in Syria and has become close to the group's leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, according to a dossier published recently by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).
He is just one of almost 400 fighters believed to have left Germany for Syria since 2012.
Banned in Germany
In September 2014, the Interior Ministry took the drastic step of banning Isis in Germany.
This means that the group and its symbols are illegal and any activities undertaken on behalf of the group, including publicizing or supporting it, are forbidden.
Activities supporting Isis are punishable under the criminal law's section 89a, “Preparation of a serious violent act that endangers the state”.
If Cuspert, for example, were to return to Germany and publish pro-Isis propaganda, he could be prosecuted under the law.
But the nature of the internet causes a problem for authorities when regulating content posted to platforms like SoundCloud, which hosts its content on Amazon Web Services servers, all of which are physically located outside of Germany.
'The internet isn't German'
“The internet isn't German, and most of the sites which contain this content are not hosted in Germany,” a BfV spokeswoman told The Local.
“Of course we try to have these things removed. We flag things up to them [social networks], the police can do that too if a crime has been committed.”
But she added court cases were only likely to be brought under the Isis ban against individuals or companies who upload propaganda in Germany.
“The point of contact is an act committed within Germany,” an Interior Ministry spokeswoman confirmed.
“It's not about whether it's a German company, but where the servers are located."