Belgium takes the lead in the fight against online propaganda for IS. During a four-day promotion, more than 26,000 images, videos and messages were taken offline in twitch viewer bot. Specialists doubt how long the impact will last. But while IS recovers its channels, it is also easy to infiltrate.
This is mainly done with the help of Telegram, an online messaging service that long escaped the grip of the security services. But in the meantime, that company is also working with governments to ban propaganda for terror from its channels. For example, during the first two days of the operation organized by Belgium, it had already blocked more than 2,000 user accounts, it reported itself.
The nerve center of the action was located at the federal judicial police of the province of East Flanders. It was assisted by police and security services from eleven other EU member states and nine internet companies, coordinated by Europol. The action did not lead to the identification of persons behind the propaganda machine – at least not in our country.
On the island of Tenerife, an arrest was made on Friday of what the Spanish police call “a typical example of the target of IS propaganda”: a young Mauritanian who, on his own initiative, radicalized what he found online and who subsequently started to use that material himself. to spread.
“The aim of the campaign was to disrupt the creation and distribution of propaganda for IS,” prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt explained at a press conference at Europol in The Hague. “That has been successful. We have succeeded in achieving something important: as far as we know, the Islamic State is no longer active on the internet. ”
The latter is a bit exaggerated because yesterday we ourselves still managed to find IS propaganda – both on existing channels that seemed to be escaping attention, and on hastily founded new channels. Specialists say that the disruption was more severe than in previous campaigns – one of which was also led through Belgium in April of last year.
For example, not only propaganda channels but also many individual accounts of people who manage such channels died – and many new channels disappeared soon after they were founded. “But also a cat-and-mouse game that you thoroughly tackle remains a cat-and-mouse game,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a Canadian scientist who focuses on IS propaganda, for which an impossible work the security services do stand for.
They themselves emphasize that their work, in any case, causes a great deal of damage to the terror group. “They will undoubtedly try to turn up again, but that requires time and money,” said public prosecutor Van der Sypt. And then there is another advantage to this type of action that investigators would rather not talk about too much: the possibility of infiltrating with IS when there is great chaos.
Now that the terror group has to activate new channels quickly and en masse, security services can mislead supporters and lure fake channels. In this way they can get to identities of users, follow conversations and even drop espionage software on computers of IS’ers. Nobody wants to confirm that the operation of the past few days has been used for such infiltrations, but warnings for suspicious accounts have already appeared among jihadists themselves.