Europe is expected to establish a new police unit that will scan the Internet for Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) propaganda and shut down the jihadist group’s social media accounts, news outlets report.
“A special pan-European police unit is in the process of being established in order to scan the Internet for the ring leaders behind Islamic State’s social media propaganda campaign,” reports i24news.
“Run by the European police agency Europol, the team hopes to locate key figures behind the estimated 100,000 tweets a day pumped out from 45,000 to 50,000 accounts linked to the Islamist terror group.” it continues. “The unit will aim to close down new accounts that it detects within two hours of them being set up. Europol believes up to 5,000 EU citizens, including people from the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, have travelled to territories controlled by [ISIS].”
Rob Wainwright, Europol’s director, told BBC the new police team will start its work on July 1.
“We will have to combine what we see online, with our own intelligence and that that is shared with us by European police services, so we can be a bit more targeted and identify who the key user accounts are… and concentrate on closing them down,” said Wainwright.
He added that the new police force “would be an effective way of combating the problem.”
The Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution estimates that there could be as many as 90,000 ISIS-linked Twitter accounts.
An article by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity, said that blocking Twitter accounts was not enough.
“It’s time to stop shooting in the dark and recognize [ISIS} and its followers on Twitter are determined and dangerously adaptive – not because they enjoy tweeting, but because Twitter itself is among the most crucial tools to their growth and existence,” wrote Rita Katz, director of SITE, in the April article.
Analysts have been able to pinpoint ISIS’s movements in Iraq and Syria through the Tweets and YouTube videos posted by the jihadist group, notes Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Britain-based analysts from IHS Conflict Monitor compiled data, exclusively shared with AFP, showing “how the Islamic State (IS) group is probing beyond the territory it currently holds and pushing the bulk of its forces towards Damascus and Baghdad.”
“IHS ranks the most reliable Twitter and YouTube accounts from known IS militants, as well as opposition activists and government sources, using the geo-location data from around 4,000 entries a month to map attacks ranging from assassinations to large-scale bomb attacks,” reports AFP.
Data collected by IHS from March to May revealed that ISIS was making the strategic decision not to attack Kurdish forces because such an action could leave its troops vulnerable to U.S.-led airstrikes.
“The Islamic State is shifting its attention to the weakened Syrian government at the expense of losing territory to the Kurds in northern Syria,” said Firas Abi-Ali, IHS chief of Middle East analysis, according to AFP.
“We see the group’s operational reach goes far beyond the territory it controls,” he added. “This is a continually expanding project, there is no limit to where they would stop.”