Terror funding shifts to social media, legal activities in Indonesia

Since 2015, the authorities have rated financing via donation by members of terror cells, donation via social media and self-funding as high-risk.
Since 2015, the authorities have rated financing via donation by members of terror cells, donation via social media and self-funding as high-risk. PHOTO: REUTERS

Terrorism financing in Indonesia has shifted from illegal activities such as motorcycle theft and robbery several years ago to legal activities such as donations and self-funding now.

And donations are coming from members and supporters of terror cells through social media.

This new trend in financing, which has made it more difficult for the authorities to detect and trace, started around 2015, based on a recently completed White Paper mapping the risk of domestic terror-financing activities.

The paper was jointly prepared by Indonesia's anti-money laundering agency, intelligence unit, and national counter-terrorism agency (BNPT).

Since 2015, the authorities have rated financing via donation by members of terror cells, donation via social media and self-funding as high-risk. This means there is a high chance of occurrence and security officers should give them the utmost attention, says the White Paper, aimed at helping the authorities fight terror financing.

Donation via an organisation as well as motorcycle thefts are now considered medium-risk, while fund raising through illegal drug trading is rated low-risk, or has the least chances of occurrence.

"The rise of the use of social media is because it is easy to open a social media account and anyone can use a bogus identity easily, giving the authorities challenges to identify and trace. The reach of social media is so vast that the potential of terror cells to raise funds is huge," the White Paper says.

"Terror activities need financing to procure weapons, to mobilise, to send people and to hold exercises," BNPT chief Suhardi Alius said at the recent launch of the White Paper, a copy of which was released by the government yesterday. "We have to cut the supply of funds."

Early this year, Indonesia had 22.3 million Facebook users, 23.9 million Instagram users and 35.8 million WhatsApp users, according to consumer behaviour measurement company comScore.

Fund donations have been instrumental in financing the trips of Indonesians to Syria to join militant groups and many have not been detected.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Terror funding shifts to social media, legal activities in Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe