Europol sets out plan to crush ISIS presence online

Europol has established a new team to track down and block social media accounts linked to Islamic State (ISIS).

The unit, which will start its work on 1 July, will work with a number of social media networks to carry out its mission to close down new pro-ISIS accounts within two hours of them appearing.

While the names of the social media companies involved have not been revealed, Twitter is often cited as the primary channel through which potential recruits are first drawn into conversation with the militant Salafi-jihadi group.

In March this year, the Brookings Project on US relations with the Islamic World estimated there were between 46,000 and 70,000 Twitter accounts in use by ISIS supporters between September and December 2014.

At least 1,000 accounts were suspended in this time, and, while the researchers found such efforts "do have concrete effects in limiting the reach and scope of ISIS activities on social media" they also found "they do not, at the current level of implementation, eliminate those activities, and cannot be expected to this".

Rob Wainwright, Europol's director, told the BBC that, while the taskforce will be "an effective way of combatting the problem", uncovering and eliminating all ISIS-linked social media accounts would not be possible.

"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," Wainwright said.

ISIS supporters threatened Twitter employees including co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey with "war" in March over the network's policy of blocking accounts associated with the terror group.

Jane McCallion
Deputy Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's deputy editor, specializing in cloud computing, cyber security, data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Deputy Editor, she held the role of Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialise in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.