Europol probing IS setting up of social network

ISIS consistently seeks out new spaces to make sure their messages reach potential supporters. [Thierry Ehrmann/Flickr]

European police are probing whether the Islamic State group and other extremists are setting up a social network to spread propaganda, gain funding and avoid security crackdowns, an official said Wednesday (3 May).

“We are investigating the possibility that IS and other terror groups are setting up a social media platform,” said Jan Op Gen Oorth, communications officer for the Europol policing agency.

“We are still working on identifying the full details of the account, including who has set it up and for what purpose,” Oorth told AFP, but added that it showed likely links to IS and other extremists.

The investigation comes as Europe’s policing agency struck out at online radical groups last week in a two-day operation.

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Together with officers from Belgium, Greece, Poland, Portugal and the United States, Europol assessed more than 2,000 pieces of online content last week as “harmful and illegal” and referred them to online service providers for removal, the agency said in a statement.

“This coordinated hit against online terrorist propaganda focused mainly on the online production of terrorist materials by IS and Al-Qaeda affiliated media outlets,” Europol said.

Among the items referred were propaganda videos and publications glorifying or supporting terrorism and extremism, the agency noted.

Europol added that “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”.

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Jihadists have often relied on mainstream social media platforms for online communications and to spread propaganda, with private channels on messaging app Telegram being especially popular over the past year.

Technology firms, such as Facebook and Google, have come under increasing political pressure to do more to tackle extremist material online and to make it harder for groups such as Islamic State to communicate through encrypted services to avoid detection by security services.

“They have also been searching for new service providers to make sure their messages reach potential supporters, while a growing interest for platforms that do not require identification can be witnessed,” the agency said.

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A year after the Brussels attacks, Gilles de Kerchove told about the fast pace of development of EU security policy, calling for the “systematic use of biometrics” and “batch comparison” of databases in order to boost security in the Schengen area.


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