EU aims to enlist online firms in fight against militants

jihad_online.jpg [Shutterstock]

The European Union needs to bring Internet companies fully on board in its fight against home-grown militant Islamists, the bloc’s interior ministers said on Thursday (29 January).

EU member states are increasingly worried about young European Muslims heading to Middle East war zones and returning radicalised, and ready to stage attacks at home.

Three weeks after Islamist gunmen killed 17 people in three attacks in Paris, the ministers focused on the role of the Internet in Islamist radicalisation during talks in Latvia, which holds the EU’s rotating six-month presidency.

“We must strengthen our efforts to cooperate closely with the industry and encourage them to remove terrorist and extremist content from their platforms,” the ministers said in a joint statement.

They also discussed wider use of information-sharing under existing tools such as Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency.

>> Read: European spies want more powers, but face uphill battle

“There is a clear urgency to reinforce initiatives aimed at making relevant information available to all concerned law-enforcement bodies,” the European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, told a news conference.

Last week, France urged all member states of the United Nations to work together on an international legal framework that would make social network providers share responsibility for the use of their platforms to spread messages promoting violence.

And the European Union anti-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, suggested forcing Internet firms to allow security services tap into coded emails and calls as part of a new EU strategy to combat militant attacks.

>> Read: EU anti-terrorism chief: Communications should be accessible to security services

The European Union has pledged closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism following the killing at Charlie Hebdo and subsequent attacks in Paris, in which 17 people were killed.

Two priority tracks were identified following a meeting of EU Home Affairs Ministers held in Paris on 11 January:

  • Hampering the travel movements of terrorists, including so-called “foreign fighters” and European nationals crossing the EU’s external borders.
  • Countering terrorist propaganda, particularly on the Internet, in order to tackle the root causes of radicalisation among young people.

One key issue to be discussed is a proposal for EU states to share records of air passengers – or PNR – a measure that has been held up in the European Parliament over privacy concerns.

>> Read our LinksDossier: From 9/11 to Charlie Hebdo: The EU’s response to terrorism

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