New Delhi: The terrorist group Islamic State informed the world about the attack on London Bridge not via Telegram chat this time, but on a little-known Russian app called TamTam messenger. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it can be operated even in low network areas.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the incident where two people were stabbed to death and three others injured by 28-year-old British citizen Usman Khan of Pakistani origin. The terror organisation has admitted to carrying out several attacks in the past — by releasing audios, videos on social media and later via Telegram messenger application.
— Raj Shekhar Jha (@rajshekharTOI) November 30, 2019
This time, the ISIS claimed the London Bridge attack on an application about which little is known — TamTam Messenger. The free chat and video call messaging application is available on Google Play and App Store, and can also be accessed through computers or a web browser on any operating system.
The creator of TamTam is a Russian Internet company called Mail.Ru Group, while the messenger has been developed by its social network service provider arm, Odnoklassniki. It became available for downloads some time in early 2017.
But the mystery surrounding TamTam isn’t only because it’s a new app. A carbon copy of Telegram messenger, TamTam’s entry into the social media market has remained shrouded in mystery due to the Russian authorities’ interest in it. Media reports last year had cited Russian authorities cracking down on Telegram, telling Internet service providers to block the messenger application. Around the same time, advertisements promoting TamTam began to appear on Telegram channels, besides in a few newspapers, in what was seen as a ‘replacement’ app.
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According to the same reports, what led to the crackdown on Telegram was its refusal to hand over ‘encryption’ keys for user conversations to the authorities. In recent times, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has faced similar requests from the Indian government, which has asked the service provider to help it decrypt people’s private messages on the ground of “national security”. The case is currently in the Supreme Court.
The messenger app’s popularity is still limited, even though it had claimed a rise in user base after Russia began to block Telegram. It had also garnered users in Iran, though the authorities there blocked the app in April 2018 without giving any reason.
Looks like two new downloads have to be done. TamTam and Riot. Telegram will soon be history, it appears.
— Raj Shekhar Jha (@rajshekharTOI) November 30, 2019
But what could possibly attract more users towards TamTam is its small size — 16 MB on Android phones and about 60 MB for iPhone users — and its claim to function “even when there’s a slow Internet connection”.
In the hands of ISIS
When the terror group Islamic State’s message popped up on TamTam Saturday, many were surprised but it soon became clear that the ISIS had settled on TamTam after trying its hand at using several other platforms. The terror group, which had established a virtual base on Telegram, had to shift its focus when the company began to respond to its propaganda by “banning thousands of bots and channels linked to terrorist propaganda, including those of Islamic State”.
Yup. After experimenting with Baaz, Riot, Rocket chat, carrier pigeons, and smoke signals, ISIS has found a substantial and stable home on TamTam for now. It helps that the platform is almost identical to Telegram in everyday. https://t.co/LXT55kqBW3
— Amarnath Amarasingam (@AmarAmarasingam) November 30, 2019
But while this is the first time the ISIS used TamTam to claim a terror attack, its reported use of the platform was noticed in April last year itself — when it was being propped up by Russian authorities. BBC’s monitoring group had noted that the IS had set up several channels in TamTam, under the name Nashir News Agency.
So far, TamTam hasn’t responded to how the IS came to using its services, but it isn’t surprising given all one needs to access this free for all platform is a phone number. The almost hassle-free use, with services being available even under slow Internet speed, may very well turn TamTam the next best thing for the Islamic State.
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