Europol ramps up efforts to combat online terrorist propaganda

The agency says a new task force will focus exclusively on fighting terrorist and violent extremist propaganda online.


As ISIS grows in strength and presence, Europol has launched a dedicated group to combat terrorist propaganda and recruitment efforts on the Web.

In the last few years, the use of the Internet by terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda has grown significantly.

Speaking to attendees at the Kaspersky Labs' Security Analyst Summit in February, Rodrigo Bijou from the data guild wrapped up digital terrorism in one simple phrase: "Terrorists love forums."

The modern-day extremist uses digital tools to connect to would-be terrorists, incite religious and political hatred, and prey upon the vulnerable to entice them over to their side.

Social networks, in particular, can be used to conduct campaigns to recruit new followers and both promote and glorify acts of extremism. The more exposure this content gets, the wider the pool of potential converts.

In order to tackle this problem -- and as mandated by the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU in March this year -- Europol has set up a new, dedicated group to track and shut down these efforts.

Unveiled on Wednesday, the European agency said the European Union Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) will "combat terrorist propaganda and related violent extremist activities on the Internet." The EU IRU will begin with roughly 15 Europol officers and national authority figures and is expected to grow in size until reaching capacity in July 2016.

However, it is not just Europol officers who will be working on cleaning up online terrorist activity. In addition, the "combined resources of social media partners and national expert contact points" across all member states will be connected to EU IRU, with the overall aim of creating a community which will work together to tackle extremism.

Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol said the combined efforts of Europol and member states "will deliver a determined response to this problem affecting the safety and liberty of the Internet."

Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said:

"The recent terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait have shown once again how important it is to combat terrorist threats with determination. The establishment of the EU Internet Referral Unit is one of the first deliverables of the European Agenda on Security.

It will provide operational support to Member States on how to tackle more effectively the challenges of detecting and removing the increasing volume of terrorist material on the internet and in social media. The launch of this important initiative is the result of our common efforts. The success of this initiative will depend on the continued good cooperation and contributions from all stakeholders."

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