On 3 October 2018, Europol’s European Union Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) organised the 11th joint Referral Action Day with the National Referral Units of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to identify and secure the swift removal of terrorist content uploaded to Telegram services. The intensive referral campaign was hosted at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague and targeted content published by terrorist groups and terrorist sympathisers, aiming at radicalising, recruiting and propagating terrorist activities.
During the Referral Action Day, the specialised law enforcement units performed a qualitative assessment of several hundreds of pieces of suspected terrorist propaganda on Telegram services detecting patterns in how terrorist groups abuse the platform’s services.
The findings were shared with Telegram, which attended part of the event, to allow them review the detected content disseminated online by terrorist groups. The final removal of the referred material is a voluntary activity by the concerned social media platforms, taking into consideration their own terms and conditions.
This coordinated action against online terrorist propaganda focused mainly on the online production of terrorist material by the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda affiliated media outlets. Among the items referred were media files such as PDFs, video and audio uploaded by the terrorist groups to Telegram and public Telegram channels hosting this material.
During the Referral Action Days, Europol promotes a coordinated approach to fighting terrorist propaganda online. Similar joint actions will continue to be organised on a regular basis.
The engagement with the internet-based companies takes place in the framework of the EU Internet Forum which is set up by the EU Commission.
Terrorists’ use of the internet and social media has significantly increased over the course of recent years. Jihadist groups in particular have demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of how social media operate and have launched well-organised, concerted online campaigns to recruit followers and to promote or glorify acts of terrorism.
As this is a problem that spans multiple linguistic audiences and jurisdictions, a common EU response was necessary, hence the establishment of the EU IRU in 2015.
Based within Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) , the EU IRU detects and investigates terrorist content on the Internet. Furthermore the Unit produces strategic insights into jihadist terrorism and provides support to law enforcement authorities in the EU Member States in online criminal investigations.
Since its creation in 2015, the EU IRU has assessed 65 897 pieces of content in total, which triggered 63 719 decisions for referral, with a success rate of removal of 84.5%.