Law enforcement authorities in the United States, European Union and Canada this week began a joint cybercampaign against Islamic State online communication channels that will “severely disrupt” the group’s propaganda machine, the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol said.
The multinational action, led by Belgian federal prosecutors, was launched Wednesday and Thursday and targeted IS media outlets, including Amaq news, al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nashir news.
IS’s Amaq news agency is believed to be a major propaganda outlet for the terror group. The group relies on the outlet to spread propaganda in several languages, including English and French. Amaq has broadcast claims of responsibility for deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Berlin and Barcelona.
“With this groundbreaking operation, we have punched a big hole in the capability of IS to spread propaganda online and radicalize young people in Europe,” Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, said in a statement released Friday.
“I applaud the determined and innovative work by Europol and its partners to target a major part of the international terrorist threat prevalent in Europe today,” he added.
This is not the first time Western countries joined forces to crack down on IS propaganda capabilities. A coordinated effort in August 2016 hit Amaq’s mobile application and web infrastructure. Another multinational operation led by Spanish Guardia Civil in June 2017 against the outlet helped authorities identify radicalized individuals in over 100 countries around the world.
Europol claimed the two-day effort this week led to the seizure of digital evidence by law enforcement authorities and compromised IS broadcast capabilities and materials.
Europol authorities said the data retrieved as a result of the crackdown would be used to identify the administrators behind IS media outlets.
In a separate statement, Belgian police said the operation also aimed to seize and shut down computer servers used to spread terror propaganda in Europe.
Over the years, IS has weaponized the internet to radicalize, recuit and inspire acts of terrorism in the West and around the world.
The group’s ability to produce and distribute new propaganda has been significantly diminished since it lost nearly 98 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, and social media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter increased their efforts to remove radical content from the internet.
VOA Turkish service’s Arzu Cakir contributed to this report from Paris.