Growing concern in Europe over violent online extremism

Last year, on December 15, 2022, the second Referral Action Day (RAD)against violent right-wing extremist and terrorist content online was coordinated by the European Union Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) at Europol. Involved in the coordinated actions were specialised units from 14 countries, 13 of which were EU member states and one a non-EU country.

The operation detected more than 800 related articles on 34 platforms affected by the proliferation of violent extremist content online.

The authorities that participated were involved in identifying and flagging terrorist content to online service providers and evaluating their responses.

The activities led to the referral of 831 items to 34 affected platforms. The materials referred to include content produced by extreme right-wing organisations or others that favour it. It also includes content shared in connection with terrorist attacks motivated by violent extremism. These materials include live broadcasts, manifestos, claims and celebrations of attacks.

This day shows that violent extremism is a growing concern in Europe and elsewhere, especially since the events in Bratislava (Slovakia) and Buffalo (USA).

Since the first Referral Action Day targeting this type of online content was organised in 2021, the threat posed by violent extremism and terrorism continues to grow. The Buffalo and Bratislava terrorist attacks illustrated a worrying proliferation of terrorist and violent right-wing extremist activities worldwide. The perpetrators of these attacks formed part of transnational online communities and were inspired by other violent right-wing extremists and terrorists. In their manifestos, terrorist actors have pointed out the crucial role of online propaganda in the radicalisation process. This shows how internet abuse continues to be an important aspect of radicalisation and violent recruitment of the far right.

RADs strengthen law enforcement efforts to address the creation and dissemination of violent extremist and terrorist propaganda online. During the coordinated activities, participants submit content linked to propaganda material to online service providers, inviting them to assess and remove content that violates their terms of service. Meanwhile, platforms are invited to bolster their moderation protocols to avoid this type of abuse in the future.

The countries participating in this edition were the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Based in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU member states in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organised forms of crime. Europol also works alongside many non-EU partner states and international organisations. Europol has the tools and resources it needs to make Europe a safer space, such as various threat assessments and operational and intelligence-gathering activities.


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