As Telegram messaging app blocks ISIS sites, new ones pop up

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Telegram's Struggle to Stop IS Messages

Mobile messaging service Telegram is racing to shut down broadcast channels used by Islamic State to promote its causes and recruit members, but the group is creating new channels apparently just as quickly.

Berlin-based Telegram, created two years ago by the founder of Russia's most popular social network site Vkontakte, has caught on in many corners of the globe as an ultra-secure way to quickly upload and share videos, texts and voice messages.

RELATED: Kurdish Iraqis enter Sinjar in push to oust ISIS fighters

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As Telegram messaging app blocks ISIS sites, new ones pop up
MT. SINJAR, NOVEMBER 12: A member of a Kurdish special forces regiment watches from a hilltop as US-led coalition airstrike targets a Islamic State position while a large convoy of Kurdish peshmerga forces drives to Sinjar city during a major offensive to expel Islamic State militants. (Alice Martins/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A Kurdish peshmerga fighter pauses during an operation to retake the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by the U.S.-led air campaign, launched an assault Thursday aiming to retake the strategic town of Sinjar, which the Islamic State overran last year in an onslaught that caused the flight of tens of thousands of Yazidis and first prompted the U.S. to launch airstrikes against the militants. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
Smoke rises over Sinjar, northern Iraq from oil fires set by Islamic State militants as Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, launch a major assault on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The strategic town of Sinjar was overran last year by the Islamic State group in an onslaught that caused the flight of tens of thousands of Yazidis and first prompted the United States to launch the air campaign against the militants. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
MT. SINJAR, NOVEMBER 12: Peshmerga forces walk towards a gathering point ahead of a major offensive launched today to expel Islamic State militants from Sinjar, Iraq. (Alice Martins/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A Kurdish fighter, known as a peshmerga, lies underneath a blanket, overlooking the town of Sinjar, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Officials with the Iraqi Kurdish militia said they are preparing to push their large-scale military operation into the center of Sinjar, the strategic mountain town in northern Iraq currently in the hands of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
MT. SINJAR, NOVEMBER 12: Members of a Kurdish special forces stand on a hilltop as a major offensive to take control of Sinjar city is underway. (Alice Martins/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Kurdish fighters watch in the early morning as they fight against the Islamic State group in Sinjar, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Officials with the Iraqi Kurdish militia said they are preparing to push their large-scale military operation into the center of Sinjar, the strategic mountain town in northern Iraq currently in the hands of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
Smoke believed to be from an airstrike billows over the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by the U.S.-led air campaign, launched an assault Thursday aiming to retake the strategic town of Sinjar, which the Islamic State overran last year in an onslaught that caused the flight of tens of thousands of Yazidis and first prompted the U.S. to launch airstrikes against the militants. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
Iraqi Kurdish forces take part in an operation backed by US-led strikes in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, Mosul province, on November 12, 2015, to retake the town from the Islamic State group and cut a key supply line to Syria. The autonomous Kurdish region's security council said up to 7,500 Kurdish fighters would take part in the operation, which aims to retake Sinjar 'and establish a significant buffer zone to protect the (town) and its inhabitants from incoming artillery.' AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
MT. SINJAR, NOVEMBER 12: Peshmerga forces walk towards a gathering point ahead of a major offensive launched today to expel Islamic State militants from Sinjar, Iraq. (Alice Martins/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MT. SINJAR, NOVEMBER 12: A peshmerga soldier smokes a cigarette in front of a wall decorated with weapons and spray-painted with the phrase 'Long Live the Peshmerga' by mount Sinjar, Iraq. (Alice Martins/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Kurdish forces sit at a post with the Kurdish flag as they prepare for battling the Islamic State group on the frontline in Sinjar to liberate the northern Iraqi town Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Officials with the Iraqi Kurdish militia said they are preparing to push their large-scale military operation into the center of Sinjar, the strategic mountain town in northern Iraq currently in the hands of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
Smoke believed to be from an airstrike billows over the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by the U.S.-led air campaign, launched an assault Thursday aiming to retake the strategic town of Sinjar, which the Islamic State overran last year in an onslaught that caused the flight of tens of thousands of Yazidis and first prompted the U.S. to launch airstrikes against the militants. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
A Kurdish fighter, known as a peshmerga, yawns as he stands guard on the frontline in Sinjar, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Officials with the Iraqi Kurdish militia said they are preparing to push their large-scale military operation into the center of Sinjar, the strategic mountain town in northern Iraq currently in the hands of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
MT. SINJAR, NOVEMBER 12: Smoke from a US-led coalition airtrike billows above Sinjar city as a major offensive launched today to expel Islamic State militants from the Iraqi city is underway. (Alice Martins/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Smoke rises over Sinjar, northern Iraq from oil fires set by Islamic State militants as Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, launch a major assault on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The strategic town of Sinjar was overran last year by the Islamic State group in an onslaught that caused the flight of tens of thousands of Yazidis and first prompted the United States to launch the air campaign against the militants. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
A Kurdish force stands guard at a post as the sun rises on the frontline with the Islamic State group in Sinjar, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Officials with the Iraqi Kurdish militia said they are preparing to push their large-scale military operation into the center of Sinjar, the strategic mountain town in northern Iraq currently in the hands of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
A displaced Iraqi man from the Yazidi community, who fled violence between Islamic State (IS) group jihadists and Peshmerga fighters in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, in the northern Iraqi province of Mosul, looks on as smoke billows during an operation by Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led strikes in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on November 12, 2015, to retake the town from the Islamic State group and cut a key supply line to Syria. AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
The frontline between the Kurdish forces with coalition partners and the Islamic States group is seen in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Officials with the Iraqi Kurdish militia said they are preparing to push their large-scale military operation into the center of Sinjar, the strategic mountain town in northern Iraq currently in the hands of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
MOSUL, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 12: Smoke rises after the Peshmerga forces belonging to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) attack the Sinjar town of Mosul, Iraq during an operation carried out to clear the region from Daesh terrorists on November 12, 2015. (Photo by Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Heavy smoke covers the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar during an operation by Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led strikes on November 12, 2015, to retake the town from the Islamic State group and cut a key supply line to Syria. The autonomous Kurdish region's security council said up to 7,500 Kurdish fighters would take part in the operation, which aims to retake Sinjar 'and establish a significant buffer zone to protect the (town) and its inhabitants from incoming artillery.' AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
A Kurdish peshmerga fighter stands guard in fighting against the Islamic State group as the sun rises in Sinjar, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Officials with the Iraqi Kurdish militia said they are preparing to push their large-scale military operation into the center of Sinjar, the strategic mountain town in northern Iraq currently in the hands of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
Kurdish peshmerga fighters fire into the the air while celebrating the retaking of of Sinjar, northern Iraq, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. Iraqi Kurdish militias battling to take back Sinjar from Islamic State militants raised a Kurdish flag and fired off celebratory gunfire in the center of town, though U.S. and Kurdish officials cautioned that it was too soon to declare victory in a major offensive to retake the strategic community.(AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
Kurdish peshmerga fighters enter the town of Sinjar on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 after they took it from the Islamic State group in a joint operation with the coalition forces. Iraqi Kurdish militias battling to take back Sinjar from Islamic State militants raised a Kurdish flag and fired off celebratory gunfire in the center of town, though U.S. and Kurdish officials cautioned that it was too soon to declare victory in a major offensive to retake the strategic community.(AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
A Kurdish peshmerga fighter stands next to a destroyed building inside the town of Sinjar, northern Iraq, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Iraqi Kurdish militias battling to take back Sinjar from Islamic State militants raised a Kurdish flag and fired off celebratory gunfire in the center of town, though U.S. and Kurdish officials cautioned that it was too soon to declare victory in a major offensive to retake the strategic community.(AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
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Two months ago, a new public broadcast feature of Telegram became the preferred method for Islamic State to broadcast news and share videos of military victories or sermons, according to security researchers.

The group used Telegram to claim responsibility for the Paris attacks, which left 129 people dead, and the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt last month, which killed 224.

In a statement published on its site on Wednesday, Telegram said it has been able to identify and block 78 IS-related broadcast channels in 12 languages on its site.

"We were disturbed to learn that Telegram's public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda," it said.

The company's statement appeared an hour after Reuters published a piece detailing Islamic State's use of Telegram.

Some of the IS sites blocked by Telegram quickly re-emerged in new locations on its network. Some were quickly shut down, while other relocated channels remained running.

Alex Kassirer, a counter-terrorism analyst with the New York-based private intelligence firm Flashpoint, said IS had begun using Telegram channels in recent months to broadcast press releases aimed at recruiting and inspiring followers.

Some of the dozens of channels set up drew as many as 16,000 followers, said Rita Katz, director of Bethesda, Maryland-based extremist monitoring service SITE Intelligence Group. Some of those channels can no longer be reached, and a message was displayed saying they were no longer available.

Unlike Twitter, which has closed thousands of accounts tied to Islamic State for violating company rules, until Wednesday Telegram had appeared to let the jihadists operate without fear of being turned off or traced, Katz said.

Telegram, which did not respond to requests for comment, explicitly says on its site that it makes efforts to block Islamic State.

FIGHTING A DIFFERENT FIGHT

The company statement stressed that shutting IS channels on the site was not taken to restrict free speech, which its ultra-secure messaging site is designed to encourage.

"While we do block terrorist bots and channels, we will not block anybody who peacefully expresses alternative opinions," Telegram said.

But IS supporters continue to take advantage of private members-only channels on Telegram to spread word of the new public propaganda channels.

One newly set-up channel in English called Trendit, has nearly 500 followers so far, while other jihadi channels aimed at Islamic State supporters in Indonesia remained up, analysts said.

"The problem with blocking Telegram groups, like suspending Twitter or Facebook accounts, is that it becomes a game for IS supporters to see how fast they can get up another account," said researcher Sidney Jones, who runs think-tank in Jakarta called the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.

It is often as simple as changing a letter or adding a number, then "shouting out" the new name to other followers online, she said.

Telegram was set up by the two brothers who founded VKontakte.

Pavel Durov, 31, the frontman, and his brother Nicolay, 34, the technical talent, were inspired by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's battle against widespread Internet surveillance and their own run-ins with Russian authorities.

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