Run by the European police agency Europol, it will start work on July 1, with a remit to take down Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) accounts within two hours of them being detected.
Europol director Rob Wainwright told the daily that the new Internet referral unit would monitor social media output to identify people who might be vulnerable and those preying on them.
“Who is it reaching out to young people, in particular, by social media, to get them to come, in the first place? It’s very difficult because of the dynamic nature of social media,” he was quoted as saying.
The director said the police team would be working with social media companies to identify the most important accounts operating in a range of languages that are “underpinning what ISIS are doing”.
Europol said it would not name the social media firms that have agreed to help the police. It will use network analytics to identify the most active accounts, such as those pumping out the most messages and those part of an established online community, the report said.
Wainwright said the new unit would aim to “identify the ringleaders online”, but even then counter-terrorism investigators could not go through every one of the estimated 50,000 targeted accounts, as there were too many and new ones could easily be set up.
Last week, ISIS’ ability to reach into British communities to gain recruits was demonstrated once again as a 17-year-old Briton named Talha Asmal is believed to have killed himself in a suicide bombing in Iraq, while three Bradford sisters are feared to have fled to Syria with their nine children in the hope of joining a brother who has been fighting the Assad regime.
A total of 700 Britons have travelled to territory controlled by ISIS in Syria and Iraq -? a problem shared with other European countries. Europol’s database tracking suspected foreign fighters in the two countries has 6,000 names.
Wainwright said up to 5,000 were believed to have travelled to ISIS-held territory from countries including Holland, France and Belgium, as well as from the UK.