Europol hosts Online Terrorist Propaganda Conference to target Internet messaging

On 10 and 11 April, Europol’s European Counter-Terrorism Centre (ECTC) hosted its first high-level conference on Online Terrorist Propaganda. Over 150 participants gathered at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague to discuss a wide variety of topics pertaining to the current online terrorist threat.

Participants included members of the ECTC Advisory Group on Terrorist Propaganda, representatives of the EU Commission and EU Council, academia professionals and law enforcement practitioners from both Europe and the US.

Terrorist groups, such as the so-called Islamic State (IS), largely owe their success to their well-planned and implemented strategy on the Internet. Their virtual footprint will remain on the Internet for the foreseeable future as a result of the widescale production of slickly-edited content accumulated over recent years. Tackling this challenge remains at the very forefront of the EU’s counter-terrorism efforts, with success only achievable through co-ordinated and systematic action bringing together law enforcement, public institutions and the private sector.

Recognising the need for such a multi-stakeholder approach, back in July last year the ECTC established an Advisory Group on Online Terrorist Propaganda, bringing together EU Internet Referral Unit (IRU) staff with academics and practitioners boasting recognised expertise in the field of the terrorist exploitation of online communications. With the creation of this Advisory Group, the ECTC aims to draw on its members’ expertise and technological solutions to keep pace with the way in which terrorist groups adapt their messaging and communications to changing environments and new technologies.

Mapping terrorist networks online

The results of this multi-stakeholder co-operation were presented at Europol’s Online Terrorist Propaganda Conference alongside topics ranging from solutions on how to analyse Big Data and map terrorist networks online through to insights into the online behaviour, tactics and communication regime of terrorists. The outcome of the conference will help Europol and EU law enforcement in general to better focus their counter-terrorism efforts, as well as enhance the tools and techniques in place for more effective prevention and investigation.

Since the launch of Europol’s EU IRU in July 2015, concrete steps have been taken to stop the abuse of the Internet by terrorist groups with measurable outcomes. Over 83% of the content referred to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) by the EU IRU thus far has been removed. The EU IRU continues to engage with ISPs to encourage the voluntary and rapid removal of terrorist content from their platforms.

The EU IRU is part of the EU Internet Forum, a public-private partnership launched by the EU Commission in December 2015. This Forum has two key objectives: reducing accessibility to terrorist content online and empowering civil society partners to increase the volume of effective alternative narratives on the Internet.

By engaging with the Internet industry, the EU IRU is playing a key role in addressing the Forum’s first objective of reducing accessibility to terrorist content online.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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