EU police deal ‘severe blow’ to Islamic State online propaganda

The darknet provides a marketplace for everything illegal from drugs to weapons to child porn. [Shutterstock]

European police said on Monday (25 November) they had dealt a “severe blow” to the Islamic State group’s web propaganda, stopping the spread of thousands of items glorifying terrorism.

The European Union’s police agency Europol said it had suppressed 26,000 IS-related pieces of content, including videos and social-media accounts, during the 21-24 November operation.

Europol coordinated the operation, kicked off by a Belgian police investigation into IS propaganda agency Amaq.

The jihadist group, which once controlled vast swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, had lost most of its territory by early 2019 but continued to pump out propaganda online.

The operation expended “enormous efforts” to take down “everything” related to IS propaganda including Amaq, Eric van Der Sypt of the Belgian prosecutor’s office told a press conference in The Hague.

As well as taking down content, police arrested a man in Spain suspected of being one of the “main distributors” of IS online propaganda.

Van Der Sypt said IS had not expected the attack and it would require “considerable effort” to rebuild its operations after such a “severe blow”.

Belgian agents were also involved in a concerted effort to tackle Amaq last year but Van Der Sypt admitted they had been surprised by how quickly it had rebuilt.

He told AFP earlier on Monday: “We’ve knocked them down for the moment… but we’re not naive. A first cyberattack in 2018 didn’t stop them from bouncing back.”

In March 2016, the Belgian capital Brussels was hit in a double suicide attack claimed by IS that left 32 people dead.

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