New EU counterterrorism unit to tackle online jihadis

The European Council has proposed the creation of a new Europol counterterrorism unit that will pool member states’ resources to address the increase in online content glorifying terrorism.

The Financial Times reports that the proposals “are part of efforts by security officials to contain the profusion of extremist content online” following the “attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices and a Jewish supermarket in Paris”.

“[The Paris attacks] have added… urgency to countering the extremism problem,” Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counterterrorism chief, told the FT. “Dealing with material online is the first item on the agenda.”

Based on the UK’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CITRU), the EU Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) will monitor “terrorist and extremist online content”, especially on social media, and support investigations by law enforcement agencies. According to a European Council briefing document, the EU IRU’s aims are:

  • “To coordinate and share the identification tasks (flagging) of terrorist and extremist online content with relevant partners,
  • “To ensure that referrals can be done quickly, efficiently and effectively,
  • “To support investigations of competent authorities, by providing strategic analysis and operational analysis,
  • “To act as a European Centre of Excellence.”

Each EU member state will designate “a national counterpart” of the unit by the end of May 2015, and the EU IRU will be operational by 1 July, according to the briefing document.

The proposal “will be presented to ministers from the governments of EU member states at a meeting of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council,” according to the BBC.

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