Europol announces operation to disrupt Islamic State propaganda

Europol announces operation to disrupt Islamic State propaganda
Rob Wainwright (left) © Dutch Government/Valerie Kuypers

Europol has led a joint operation between the EU, US and Canada to seize servers and digital evidence to disrupt the flow of so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) propaganda.

The operation was described as a coordinated effort to hinder the terrorist group’s capability to broadcast terrorist material, and sought to disrupt Islamic State propaganda from the Amaq News Agency and dismantle the online infrastructure of its web assets.

A previous takedown effort against Amaq’s web infrastructure proved successful in 2016, leading the media outlet to develop a more secure infrastructure. This necessitated the latest operation, a simultaneous multinational takedown involving authorities from Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Romania, the UK and the US, which included the seizure of servers and digital evidence, and the referral of domain registrars used by the terrorist group.

How did the operation disrupt Islamic State propaganda?

Along with Amaq, which Europol described as the ‘main mouthpiece of IS’, the operation targeted other outlets like the Al-Bayan radio station and the Nashir news agency, as part of a comprehensive effort to disrupt Islamic State propaganda across all of its official channels.

The effort will support the European Commission’s current efforts to tackle illegal terrorist content online, which includes legislation to support the removal of this content on social media platforms and ensures faster targeting of illegal material. Along with the seizure of hardware that formed part of Europol’s operation this week, this could make a big impact in combating terrorist propaganda.

How have EU authorities responded?

Europol’s executive director, Rob Wainwright, said that the joint efforts of the authorities involved were vital to crippling Islamic State’s wider operations. He commented: “With this ground-breaking operation we have punched a big hole in the capability of IS to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe. I applaud the determined and innovative work by Europol and its partners to target a major part of the international terrorist threat prevalent in Europe today.”

European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, referred to the operation as a show of “global strength and… unwavering resolve to fight against terrorist content online”. He added that Europol was supporting military efforts to take back land claimed by IS in Iraq and Syria by also taking away the terrorist organisation’s online presence.

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