ISIS creating own social media platform: EU police agency

Militants seeking to avoid crackdowns on their communications and propaganda

LONDON • Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants are developing their own social media platform to avoid security crackdowns on their communications and propaganda, according to the head of the European Union's police agency.

Europol director Rob Wainwright said the new online platform had been uncovered during a 48-hour operation against Internet extremism last week.

"Within that operation, it was revealed ISIS is now developing its very own social media platform, its own part of the Internet to run its agenda," Mr Wainwright said in London on Wednesday. "It does show that some members of Daesh, at least, continue to innovate in this space."

Daesh is an acronym for the Arab name of ISIS.

During a Europol-coordinated crackdown on ISIS and Al-Qaeda material, which involved officials from the United States, Belgium, Greece, Poland, and Portugal, more than 2,000 extremist items were identified, hosted on 52 social media platforms. Militants have often relied on mainstream social media platforms for online communications and to spread propaganda, with private channels on messaging app Telegram being especially popular over the past year.

  • 2,000

  • More than this number of extremist items were identified during a Europol-coordinated crackdown on ISIS and Al-Qaeda material.

  • 52

  • Number of social media platforms the items were hosted on.

Technology firms, such as Facebook and Google, have come under increasing political pressure to do more to tackle extremist material online and make it harder for groups such as ISIS to communicate through encrypted services to avoid detection by security services.

But Europol, in a statement, said "efforts made by numerous online platforms to remove inappropriate content have driven supporters of terrorist groups to simultaneously use multiple platforms to promote terrorism and incite violence".

"They have also been searching for new service providers to make sure their messages reach potential supporters, while a growing interest for platforms that do not require identification has been witnessed," the agency said.

Mr Wainwright said that ISIS, by creating its own service, is responding to concerted pressure from intelligence agencies, police forces and the tech sector, and is trying to find a way around it.

"We have certainly made it a lot harder for them to operate in this space, but we're still seeing the publication of these awful videos and communications operating large scale across the Internet," he said, adding that he did not know if it would be technically harder to take down ISIS' own platform.

Mr Wainwright also said he believed that security cooperation between Britain and the EU would continue after Brexit, despite British warnings that it is likely to leave Europol and cease sharing intelligence if it strikes no divorce deal with the bloc.

Europe, he said, is facing "the highest terrorist threat for a generation".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'ISIS creating own social media platform: EU police agency'. Print Edition | Subscribe