22nd Oct 2016

EU to strengthen surveillance of terrorist websites

  • Only five experts in each EU state are allowed to access the portal (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Union wants to strengthen its monitoring of militant Islamic websites, saying the internet plays a major role in the running and communication network of terrorist organisations.

EU ambassadors gathering for their weekly meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (30 May) decided that a newly established online police portal "needs to be further strengthened" to combat terrorism, according to press reports.

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The high-security portal - named "Check the Web" - was launched earlier this month and allows the 27 EU states to pool data on Islamist propaganda and internet chatter at the European Police Office (Europol) in The Hague.

"We allow EU member states to share their responsibilities in checking the web," head of Europol Max-Peter Ratzel told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that "it's for Islamic terrorism."

"If you see that a web site is [already being] checked by another country, you can save energy," Mr Ratzel said. The site is only accessible to a maximum of five experts from each EU state.

The portal is to include a list of links to monitored web sites, statements by terrorist organisations and details on other experts checking the web in EU countries, including their language competence and technical expertise.

Some member states – led by Germany – are currently sharing the task of analysing al Qaeda's media department, as-Sahab, according to EU ambassadors.

"Terrorists use the internet not only as a means to communicate and spread propaganda, but also to radicalise, recruit and train terrorists, to spread instructions on how to carry out concrete offences and to transfer covert information," said the conclusions of their meeting, obtained by Reuters.

Germany, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, pushed to start the cooperation in web-surveillance, saying not all 27 member states had the expertise needed to translate and analyse websites used by extremists, reports Dagens Nyheter.

The idea first came to light in 2006 when interior ministers of the G6 states - France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK – met in March last year and decided to create the Check the Web portal.

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