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Islamic State propaganda machine hit in two-day blitz

Europol said the operation had ‘punched a big hole’ in IS’s capability to spread online content.

Islamic State’s propaganda machine been targeted in an unprecedented international cyber strike.

Agencies in a host of countries including Britain took part in a two-day blitz to severely disrupt the terror group’s ability to pump out content online.

Co-ordinated by specialists at Europol, the “simultaneous multinational takedown” was launched on Wednesday and Thursday.

Authorities from Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Romania, the UK and the US combined to hinder IS’s central capability to broadcast terrorist material for an “undetermined period of time”.

Digital evidence and servers were seized as a result of the strike and officers expect data retrieved to help identify administrators behind IS media outlets and potentially radicalised individuals around Europe.

Britain’s counter-terrorism internet referral unit led the process of identifying and referring web domains that had been abused by IS.

Europol executive director Rob Wainwright said: “With this ground-breaking operation we have punched a big hole in the capability of IS to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe.”

Amaq news agency, which was described as the “main mouthpiece” of IS, was a key target in the operation.

It was officially endorsed by the terrorist organisation in July 2017 and has since become the primary source of information regarding the remaining activities of IS worldwide, according to Europol.

The EU’s law enforcement agency said: “With this takedown action, targeting major IS-branded media outlets like Amaq… IS’s capability to broadcast and publicise terrorist material has been compromised.”

Concerns over the availability of material such as execution videos, recruitment campaigns and bomb-making instructions on the internet intensified after a wave of terrorist atrocities hit Britain in 2017.

Official analysis found IS supporters used more than 400 separate online platforms to pump out “poisonous” content last year.

While IS comes under massive pressure on the ground in Syria and Iraq, governments and intelligence agencies have been stepping up their efforts to dismantle its online presence.

In February the Home Office unveiled new technology that aims to automatically detect terrorist material before it hits the web.

Earlier this month the head of GCHQ revealed that the agency had conducted a “major offensive cyber campaign” against IS, also known as Daesh.

Following the latest operation, European commissioner for security Sir Julian King said: “This shows that by working together we can stamp out the poisonous propaganda Daesh has used to fuel many of the recent terror attacks in Europe.

“For too long the internet has been open to terrorists and those who seek to do us harm: Those days are coming to an end thanks to this type of co-ordinated global work.”

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