Next to the ever-growing threat by cybercrime, Europe is currently facing a vicious, new form of international terrorism. The clear shift in strategy of carrying out special forces-style attacks in the international environment, with a particular focus on Europe, as well as the growing number of foreign terrorist fighters, demonstrates the new challenges facing the EU and its Member States.

To ensure an effective response to these challenges, in January 2016 Europol created the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC), an operations centre and hub of expertise that reflects the growing need for the EU to strengthen its response to terror.

The ECTC focuses on:

One prominent entity within the ECTC is the EU Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) which was established to browse the internet for social media accounts promoting Islamist extremist terrorist propaganda. The aim is to have such accounts shut down by the providers. The EU IRU was set to comprise the following core tasks:

Times of crisis always influence the public debate on the relationship between freedom and security in that they make the pendulum swing towards security. This has triggered concerns that our fundamental rights will be watered down and our civil liberties be wiped away in an overreaction by governments taking away exactly those freedoms which we should in fact be defending, not only against terrorists but also against public entities.

However, the political decision to establish the ECTC at Europol also underlines the commitment to observance of fundamental rights including the right to data protection and privacy.

See, with particular focus on the EU IRU: Ellermann, Terror won’t kill the privacy star – tackling terrorism propaganda online in a data protection compliant manner, in: ERA Forum DOI 10.1007/s12027-016-0446-z