A 48-hour international operation against online terrorism and extremism has seen over 2 000 items assessed as harmful and illegal material with the purpose of referring it to the online service providers for removal from the internet.
On 25 and 26 April 2017, Europol’s Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) teamed up with colleagues from Belgium, Greece, Poland, Portugal and US to identify and secure the swift removal of terrorist and violent extremism content online. Hosted at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague, the teams jointly targeted accounts used by terrorist groups to radicalise, recruit, direct terrorist activities.
As a result, 2 068 such pieces of content in 6 languages were accessed for the purpose of referral, hosted on 52 online platforms.
This coordinated hit against online terrorist propaganda focused mainly on the online production of terrorist materials by IS and al-Qaeda affiliated media outlets. Among the items referred were propaganda videos, publications and glorifying or supporting terrorism and extremism.
To counter the growing threats from “foreign fighters” travelling to conflict zones for terrorist purposes and “lone wolves” planning solo attacks, new EU-wide rules were approved by Parliament on Thursday.
The new directive on combatting terrorism will update the current EU “framework” rules on terrorist offences and widen their scope to include emerging threats.
“We need to stop the perpetrators before they commit these acts rather than regretting the fact that there have been attacks”, said Parliament’s lead MEP Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, DE) in the debate ahead of the vote. “We have struck a good balance between improving security and strictly upholding fundamental rights, because there is no point in having security without rights”, she stressed.
The text, informally agreed by Parliament and Council in November 2016, was approved by 498 votes to 114, with 29 abstentions. The extended list of preparatory acts to be criminalised includes: travelling abroad to join a terrorist group and and/or returning to the EU with the aim of carrying out a terrorist attack; recruiting for terrorism; training or being trained for terrorism; aiding, abetting or attempting to carry out an attack; public incitement or praise of terrorism, andfinancing of terrorism and terrorist groups.
“Europe is facing the most serious terrorist threat for over ten years. The increasing transnational nature of terrorist groups and their activities demand ever closer collaboration between relevant law enforcement authorities across Europe. The European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) has been established at Europol for this purpose. I am pleased by the confidence expressed in the work of this centre by the police chiefs meeting in Berlin and by their clear commitment to enhance collaboration efforts even further.” – said Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
In response to a heighetened threat of Jihadist terrorism in Europe, following several serious terrorist incidents in recent months, an extraordinary meeting of high-ranking police representatives from the EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland, was held in Berlin on 7-8 February 2017.
US President Trump has called Angela Merkel’s open door policy to refugees a “catastrophic mistake”, which he said Germany would pay for.
“Do you know, letting all these people in, wherever they come from. And no one knows where they come from at all. You will find out, you’ve had a clear impression of that,” Trump said, referring to the December attack in Berlin, where 12 people lost lives. “So I am of the opinion that she made a catastrophic mistake, a very serious mistake.”