Europe’s top cops fight ISIS on social media

Europe’s top cops fight ISIS on social media
© Getty Images

Europe’s top police network is setting up a unit to combat Islamic extremists who take over social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Starting next week, a unit of the European police agency Europol will plan to remove social media accounts belonging to members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) within two hours of detecting them.

The unit will be working with various unnamed social media sites, Europol Director Rob Wainwright told the Guardian this weekend to “identify the ringleaders online” and keep tabs on who they are targeting for new recruits.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Who is it reaching out to young people, in particular, by social media, to get them to come in the first place?” Wainright told the newspaper. “It’s very difficult because of the dynamic nature of social media.”

The move is a sign of officials’ recognition that ISIS has had a tremendous ability to gather recruits internationally and inspire people around the globe to launch attacks against their home country.

ISIS’s reach has been felt particularly strongly in Europe, the source of most of the more than 3,000 Westerners who have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. Around 180 Americans have traveled to join the terrorist group, according to top U.S. intelligence officials, though extremists are still able to inspire attacks at home.

This month, a 17-year-old Virginia high school student pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming run running a notorious Twitter account supporting ISIS and helping a friend travel to Syria to join the fight.

According to analysis from the Brookings Institution, there are at least 46,000 Twitter accounts associated with ISIS supporters.