A coalition of global law enforcement agencies has taken down more than 2,000 items of illegal online terrorist propaganda content in a 48-hour crackdown.
Last week, Europol’s Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) teamed up with agencies from Belgium, Greece, Poland, Portugal and the US to identify and remove terrorist and other violent extremism content online.
The initiative targeted accounts used by terrorist groups to radicalise, recruit and direct terrorist activity, and resulted in 2,068 individual pieces of content in six languages being referred to internet service providers.
Europol said the action was primarily focussed on propaganda material and terrorist manuals produced by Daesh and al-Qa’ida and the groups’ sympathisers.
In a statement, Europol said: “The efforts made by numerous online platforms to remove inappropriate content have driven supporters of terrorist groups to simultaneously use multiple platforms to promote terrorism and incite violence.
“They have also been searching for new service providers to make sure their messages reach potential supporters.
“A growing interest for platforms that do not require identification can be witnessed.”
The EU’s law enforcement agency said the campaign had identified a new platform that appeared to have been be set up by terrorist networks to not only spread propaganda, but also to finance their activities.
“This and other content analysed during the campaign have triggered further operational cooperation between Europol and the participating countries with the aim of identifying modus operandi of terrorist networks online,” The Hague-based organisation said, without providing further details on the new platform the crackdown identified.
Europol noted that it was the responsibility of individual service providers to take down terrorist material once it had been flagged to them.
News of operation comes as technology giants are facing increasing pressure to remove extremist and violent content from their networks.
Lawmakers in the UK have criticised the likes of Google and Facebook for failing to move quickly enough to take down terrorist material.
A report published by the influential Home Affairs Select Committee last week said online platforms should be fined if they fail to remove harmful content, noting that YouTube in particular regularly hosts videos that celebrate proscribed Islamist groups including Daesh, the al-Qa’ida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa, a Salafist jihadist group active in the Syrian civil war.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “Social media companies’ failure to deal with illegal and dangerous material online is a disgrace.
“They have been asked repeatedly to come up with better systems to remove illegal material such as terrorist recruitment or online child abuse. Yet repeatedly they have failed to do so. It is shameful.”
The report said the UK government should consult on requiring social media firms to contribute to the cost of counter-terror police work, and consider levying “meaningful fines” on firms that fail to remove extremist content within a reasonable time frame.