Crackdown on material designed to ‘educate’ future terrorists


On 18 December, Europol’s EU Internet Referral Unit coordinated a Referral Action Day (RAD) on terrorist online content. The operational action also involved special units from Czechia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Finland, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom, and different units at Europol specialised in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear substances and explosives (CBRNE), as well as weapons and explosives. The referral process took place via the PERCI platform and content was assessed and referred according to participants’ national legislation and terms of service.

The referral actions targeted online content, including instruction materials and manuals used by terrorists with various ideological motivations (jihadist, right-wing and left-wing extremist, anarchist, etc.). The actions focused on materials comprised of topics related to the means, but also the techniques of committing violent acts: how to prepare and carry out terrorist attacks. 

Another focus of the RAD was online terrorist propaganda material disseminated by individuals, groups, networks and organisations praising and celebrating terrorist attacks motivated by jihadist or violent right-wing extremist ideologies. Taking down such content is a key part of referral activity and plays a role in preventing potential attacks worldwide. 

Focus on addressing the online proliferation of terrorist instruction material 

Experts participating in the action day assessed and referred content that included manuals and tutorials on modus operandi for carrying out a violent extremist or terrorist attacks. Among the material was how to assemble 3D-printed weapons and drones, how to make bombs and chemical weapons, and how to select a target or a weapon to carry out an attack. Some of the material also included instructions on how to remain anonymous and avoid detection. 

The action day resulted in the assessment and referral of 872 URLs on a dozen of platforms and websites. The results show that instructional material can be found on different types of online service providers – from video sharing to messaging platforms. However, file-sharing services have been identified as a preferred means of disseminating terrorist instruction material online.

This is the European Union Internet Referral Unit’s (EU IRU) latest iteration in ongoing efforts to organise recurrent referral action days on different focus areas in relation to terrorist propaganda. It follows up on a previous action day of this kind. The actions focused specifically on terrorist instruction material, strengthening the response to the proliferation of such content online.

The following law enforcement authorities were involved: 

Czechia: Police of the Czech Republic (Policie České republiky)

Germany: Federal Criminal Police (Bundeskriminalamt)

Ireland: An Garda Síochána’

Italy: National Police (Polizia di Stato)

Finland: Finnish Police (Poliisi)

Slovakia: Presidium of the Police Force (Prezídium Policajného zboru)

Spain: Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), Spanish Regional Catalan Police (Mossos d'Esquadra) and Spanish Regional Basque Police (Ertzaintza)

United Kingdom: Metropolitan Police