24th Mar 2018


Fighting the terrorist virus on the internet

  • More than 150,000 videos have been deleted since June 2017 by YouTube - owned by internet giant Google (Photo: Michael McGimpsey)

The battlefield against 21st century terrorism is on the internet.

Daesh may have lost its territorial centre of gravity, Raqqa, but online it is still thriving. Clandestine and infectious, its propaganda spreads from platform to platform with a message of hate, a nihilist interpretation of Islam and detailed instructions on how to kill innocent citizens.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The most recent attacks in Europe and the US were 'inside jobs': the attackers never travelled to Syria or Iraq but had been influenced, brainwashed and recruited to terrorism on the internet.

Daesh was quick to capitalise on the advantages offered by the internet. Its recruitment strategies are now clearly moving from the physical to the virtual world, with more and more aggressive videos and messages on thousands of social media accounts targeting vulnerable groups and individuals in the West.

While some of the recent attacks seem to have been carried out by 'lone wolves', the virulence of Daesh's propaganda online proves that these attackers were anything but alone.

The fundamental question that we are grappling with today globally, is how to curb the spread of these messages, how to block terrorist content, how to protect impressionable youth from the risks of exposure – and doing this while ensuring that we do not stifle the freedom and the essence of the internet as a magnificent medium of interaction, communication and creation.

In Europe, we have been working on this for some time.

Three years ago we created the EU Internet Forum, bringing together EU governments, and the key internet platforms created by Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft. In three years, this voluntary cooperation has grown to the global level, and has shifted primarily from content flagging, to now predominantly automated detections of hundreds of thousands of terrorist images, videos and social media posts.

In 2015, we set up a referral mechanism, which to date has assessed more than 42,000 pieces of terrorist content.

At the 2016 forum, the internet companies announced their 'database of hashes' - each hash being a tag for pieces of content to be deleted irrevocably across platforms, with the aim of disrupting the whack-a-mole effect of deleted content reappearing elsewhere.

Today, the database holds more than 40,000 hashes. Its impact is exponential and can grow further.

Today, automatic detection of terrorist content online is at the heart of the forum's strategy. This means that the speed and scope with which terrorist content is removed from the internet today is rising enormously.

Three quarters of the 300,000 Twitter accounts removed in the first half of 2017 were deleted before they could post a first tweet. More than 150,000 Youtube videos were removed since June 2017 – upwards of 80 percent detected automatically.

Facebook has reached 83 percent of originally surfaced and subsequently uploaded copies of that content within one hour of upload.

Instagram, Snapchat and Wordpress

This is progress, but it is not yet enough to turn the tide.

It's not just how fast and how much terrorist content is taken down. It is also by how many platforms. This is why the next important step is to involve more and smaller internet companies, and empower them to do the same.

The forum has already engaged with over 20 companies, and we only plan to expand. Instagram, Snapchat, Wordpress and Yellow are the newest additions – but our reach has to extend further.

In all these efforts, the cooperation between the internet industry and law enforcement is essential so that the appropriate follow-up is given, and that intelligence and trend analysis are not lost.

The internet industry has to share information with law enforcement regularly and transparently. Europol is playing a leading role in facilitating these efforts and this will remain at the top of our to-do list when the EU Internet Forum meets again on 6 December.

This challenge is not only European. The fight against terrorism is international. The European approach has already gone global, and the global internet forum on counter terrorism is scaling up our existing efforts. The G7 and G20 have joined their voices to ours. The momentum is now and there is no time to waste.

If we want to protect our citizens physically from terrorism, we have to start first with the hearts and minds.

The internet is an echo chamber. The terrorist echo is what we need to drown out, whilst empowering credible voices within civil society to ensure that the violent extremist narrative does not go unchallenged.

The companies that built the most innovative and popular platforms are on our side. We are becoming faster and smarter in fighting terrorism online, and we are all fighting for the same cause: preserving the freedoms of the internet while protecting its users worldwide.

Dimitris Avramopoulos is EU commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship

EU steps up global counter-terrorism drive

EU foreign ministers vowed to increase the number of projects and financial support in different parts of the world ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, where leaders will focus on security and defence.

'Denial' - is meat the new climate change?

The European Parliament's agriculture committee meets on Tuesday, with speculation that the EPP will vote against a report on the EU plant protein plan if it mentions switching away from animals to plant-based diets.

News in Brief

  1. EU wants 'Paris' climate strategy within 13 months
  2. Workload of EU court remains high
  3. Spain's supreme court charges Catalan separatist leaders
  4. EU calls for 'permanent' exemption from US tariffs
  5. Summit backs guidelines for future EU-UK talks
  6. Macron support drops as public sector workers go on strike
  7. EU leaders condemn Turkey for illegal actions in Aegean Sea
  8. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. Nordic states discuss targeted Russia sanctions
  2. Commission sticks to its line on Barroso case
  3. Germany and France promise new Russia sanctions
  4. EU rejects US trade 'gun to the head'
  5. Tariffs and Turkey will top This WEEK
  6. EU leaders roll over Brexit talks amid Trump and Russia fears
  7. Europe needs corporate tax reform - a digital tax isn't it
  8. EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections