Something that bothered me for a while now is how western media outlets report routinely report things as being posted to "a jihadist website" without providing any kind of link so people can visit the primary source for themselves. Surely being able to visit them is not such a big deal? Why are no links ever provided? Paranoid moment: do these websites actually exist, or is this some kind of clever propaganda? Assuming it does exist, what else might be found there? Discussion forums? Jihadist wallpapers and ringtones?
This cropped up again recently when I saw this story:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/13/iraqi-shia-fights-samarra-shrines-insurgents
The image caption is "An image from the jihadist website Wilayat Salahuddin allegedly shows Isis militants on the streets of Samarra, Iraq. Photograph: Wilayat Salahuddin/AFP/Getty Images"
So I decided to try and find Wilayat Salahuddin. To save time in case anyone else tries this: no such website exists. But the cause is not an X-Files type conspiracy; just plain old garbling by the press.
Firstly, don't try and find this website via Google. The "jihadist website" the Guardian refers to is in fact this now suspended Twitter account:http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:https://twitter.com/w_salahadden&ion=1&espv=2
Google cache still has the last few tweets which were links to gulfup.com
, an Arab file/image hosting site. That's where these photos came from. Presumably "Jihadist Twitter account" doesn't sound scary enough. Twitter dumped it down the memory hole; there's now no way to see what it posted before. So I still don't know what jihadist websites contain when they're not posting horrible photos of recent events.
What does Wilayat Sallahudin mean anyway? Does it mean "Death to westerners" in Arabic? No, this is simply a translation of "Sallahudin province", i.e. just the name of where the events took place:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilayahhttps://www.google.ch/#q=salahuddin+province+iraq&qscrl=1&safe=off
I understand why the Guardian wouldn't want to post dead links and why Twitter wouldn't want to host this sort of stuff, but given that these photos have been widely redistributed and can't be removed now I think Twitter and news outlets should do us all a favour and just let us verify the sources directly.