THE HAGUE, Netherlands—A new unit at the European Union’s Europol police agency will start fighting ISIS group propaganda and recruiters in cyberspace next month in a crackdown on the terror network’s sophisticated use of social media.
Europol Director Rob Wainwright told The Associated Press on Monday the new unit will start July 3 with some 15 experts working closely with social media companies to take down accounts run by ISIS.
Wainwright said ISIS is thought to have tens of thousands of social media accounts churning out propaganda and reaching out to potential recruits. He said it is unrealistic to think they all can be taken down.
“This isn’t going to be a success any time soon in major form,” he said.
But Wainwright believes that combining police investigations from forces across Europe with intelligence gathered by Europol will allow the new unit to target the most influential accounts.
“That allows us then to get smarter with where we target our resources and try to identify who are the principle drivers and motivators in this ecosystem that ISIS have established,” he said.
EU justice ministers called for the creation of the unit in March in response to the growing number of people recruited and groomed by ISIS online.
Europol estimates that 4,000 to 5,000 European citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the militant group.
The team will include Arabic speakers and experts with years of experience monitoring Islamic extremist websites.
He stressed that the team will work closely with social media companies, though he declined to identify them by name.
“This is not Europol imposing police powers on social media companies, this is us helping them to enforce their own terms of service,” he said. “The final decision in each case rests entirely with them.”