Cross-border law enforcement agency Europol launched its European Union Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) today to combat terrorist propaganda and related violent extremist activities on the internet.
Terrorists have demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of how social networks operate, utilising well-organised, concerted social media campaigns to recruit followers and to promote or glorify acts of terrorism or violent extremism.
Consequently EU Member States decided to implement a coordinated European prevention approach, agreeing to establish a dedicated unit aimed at reducing the level and impact of terrorist and violent extremist propaganda on the internet. The European Union Internet Referral Unit at Europol will identify and refer relevant online content towards concerned internet service providers and support Member States with operational and strategic analysis.
This new capability will draw upon existing trusted relationships with law enforcement authorities across the EU and beyond, the private sector and the on-site Europol Liaison Officers' network. It will rely on available secure communication channels and databases, as well as Europol's data protection and confidentiality arrangements.
Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, said: "Europol has cooperated closely with the EU Member States and European Commission to develop this new capability, aimed at reducing terrorist and extremist online propaganda. We have also built a constructive new partnership with relevant social media and other private companies. Together we 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 that "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".
Approximately 15 Europol officials and experts from national authorities in the EU will form the first phase of the IRU team. This will grow to reach full maturity by July 2016. The full impact of the IRU is to be delivered by leveraging the combined resources of social media partners and national expert contact points due to be established in all Member States, working as a concerted community through the EU IRU at Europol.