Monday

16th Jul 2018

Opinion

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

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.

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

EU climate diplomacy can make the difference

At this critical time, with climate change increasingly urgent and with reactionary, anti-science forces threatening processes of cooperation, the EU climate mission can reassert the common values and aspirations which Europeans share.

News in Brief

  1. VW owners to get diesel software update free until 2020
  2. Airbnb breaches EU consumer rules, Commission says
  3. EU sees no China free-trade talks
  4. Italy accepts migrant boat after help promises
  5. EU opens case on Siemens' Alstom buyout
  6. Trump: May found my Brexit advice 'too brutal'
  7. Italy will reject EU-Canada trade deal, says deputy PM
  8. Commission: Juncker suffered from sciatica attack at Nato

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  2. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  3. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK
  4. EU and China edge closer in Trump's 'America First' world
  5. How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism
  6. Stage set for Trump-Putin finale
  7. Trump scuppers trade deal with UK under May's Brexit
  8. Trump wades into Brexit after Nato fiasco

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us