Sunday

26th Mar 2017

Internet giants discuss jihad with EU ministers

High ranking officials from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft met with EU interior ministers and the European Commission at a private dinner in Luxembourg to discuss ways to counter online jihadist propaganda.

The following morning, on Thursday (9 October), EU commissioner for home affairs Cecilia Malmstrom said the Internet firms explained how they co-ordinate efforts to stop the Islamic State (IS) from uploading decapitation videos.

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  • Tech firms and government officials met to discuss online counter-terrorism tactics (Photo: FreedomHouse2)

“It was especially them who spoke and how they worked, the ministers asked them questions, and we discussed about the possibilities of training,” she said.

Malmstrom backed away from proposing any new laws to counter the IS threat, noting that existing instruments, such as the EU’s radicalisation awareness network (RAN), are enough.

“It is an urgent problem but there is no quick fix,” she said.

RAN is an umbrella network set up to prevent people from turning towards violence and terrorism.

The plan is to increase dialogue between politicians and Internet firms.

Details remain vague, but the broad idea is to develop specific counter-narrative initiatives.

Other proposals include organising joint training and awareness-raising workshops for law enforcement authorities, Internet industry and civil society.

Jihadist groups, for their part, are using social media outlets to recruit new members.

Between 2,000 to 5,500 foreign fighters are said to have joined the ranks of radical figters since-mid 2011 in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.

The figures are based on estimates from the UK-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), which believes up to 18 percent of the total come from Europe.

Ministers push for PNR

Gruesome decapitation videos of journalists, aid workers, and the cold-blood killings of soldiers and civilians at the hands of IS fighters have also prompted renewed calls to relaunch stalled EU legislation on tracking airline passengers flying in and out of the EU.

Interior ministers on Thursday were discussing how to set up an EU "PNR" (Passenger Name Records) system, despite a backlash on privacy rights in the European Parliament.

The commission tabled the airline surveillance bill in 2011, but was pushed back last spring by the parliament’s civil liberties committee.

Its initial proposal only covered monitoring air travel from outside the EU.

But the scope of the bill was expanded, at the initiative of the UK government and other member states, to also include tracking of air passenger movements inside the European Union.

Member states are now pushing to get the proposal finalised by the end of the year, with British ministers lobbying MEPs to drum up support.

“MEPs need to understand the nature of the threats, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be briefed on highly classified intelligence,” said one EU official.

Asked how the EU PNR can track foreign fighters if most do not fly straight to Syria but instead slip across the border with Turkey or via other countries, the EU official gave a mixed response.

“The best answer you are going to get is bit of a rough guess of how this is going to be used,” the contact noted.

Analysis

More hype than substance in EU counter-terror plans

The 22 March anniversary of the Brussels bombing will trigger a lot of soul searching. But EU counter-terrorism strategies over the past 10 years have been crisis-driven with little follow through or oversight.

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PwC employees Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, who revealed how multinational companies dodged taxes through deals in Luxembourg, were given reduced sentences.

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