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Europol launches cyber-unit to tackle jihadists’ propaganda

Europol has launched a cyber-unit consisting of some 15 experts aimed at combatting terrorist propaganda and related violent extremist activities. Officials cited the increasing online terror campaigns “challenging” EU security.

The so called European Union Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) will grow in number and capability reaching full maturity by July 2016, the Europol said in a statement Wednesday.

The unit will “identify and refer relevant online content” to reduce the “level and impact of terrorist and violent extremist propaganda on the internet,” the statement said.

The police agency said the unit was launched due to the significant increase of terrorists’ social media and internet campaigns.

“Jihadist groups, in particular, have demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of how social networks operate. They have launched well-organized, concerted social media campaigns to recruit followers and to promote or glorify acts of terrorism or violent extremism,” Europol said.

According to the agency, the EU IRU will cooperate with law enforcement authorities particularly across the EU, with the private sector and the onsite Europol Liaison Officers' network.

READ MORE: Combat kittens & hipster jihadists: ISIS target kids to spread their cause

Citing the recent terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, Europol officials underlined the importance of the unit’s work.

Rihards Kozlovskis, Interior Minister of Latvia and chairman of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of Ministers, said that "the recent events demonstrated that one of the top priorities on our agenda is to counter violent extremism in order to contain the growth of online content produced by terrorists."

EU Counter Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said that the EU IRU will respond to the terrorist groups which “challenge our security.”

“We have also built a constructive new partnership with relevant social media and other private companies,” he said. “Together we will deliver a determined response to this problem affecting the safety and liberty of the internet."

The initiative to establish EU IRU was mandated by the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council on March 12.
According to media reports, the unit was modeled on the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) established in 2010 by the UK’s Scotland Yard and Home Office.

Officials have blamed social networks for the success of Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) terror campaigns.
CIA director John Brennan said in March that the jihadists have been so successful at staying intact and afloat largely because it has embraced new tools such as social media.

The psychological warfare waged by the US and the EU “obviously has not been effective” in curbing the IS recruitment campaigns or the activity of other terrorists, Pan-African News Wire editor Abayomi Azikiwe told RT.

The war they are supposedly waging on ISIS has not gained or reached their strategic objectives. If we look at what is going on in Iraq, Syria and Yemen as well as Libya, they are carrying out operations which they are utilizing to promote their propaganda and therefore recruit new people throughout Western countries and countries of the Middle East,” he said.

West losing hearts and minds on social media to extremists - Joint Forces Commander http://t.co/kSrzY9lVXOpic.twitter.com/1C25SX0bCO

— RT UK (@RTUKnews) July 1, 2015

ISIS forces who have conquered large swaths of northern Syria and parts of Iraq have actively used social media to promote their cause.

A March report by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, identified 46,000 human-run accounts tweeting on average 7.4 times a day to advance the group’s campaigns during the last four months of 2014.

“Much of ISIS’s social media success can be attributed to a relatively small group of hyperactive users, numbering between 500 and 2,000 accounts, which tweet in concentrated bursts of high volume,” the report said.
Using a spam and bot analysis of ISIS social media accounts, the researchers suggested that 20 percent of all the messages were created with automated software.