Police forces nationwide are appealing for internet users to report harmful extremist and terrorist material when they see it online.
All week, police and partners have been using their social media channels to urge people to report material they suspect is extremist or terrorist by clicking on a distinctive red “STOP” button that can be found on their websites. STOP stands for Stop Terrorists’ and extremists’ Online Presence.
After clicking on the button, web users are quickly directed to a short, anonymous form at www.gov.uk/report-terrorism where they are asked to enter the address of the webpage where they saw the material.
The national Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), which investigates the material, is today (Friday, April 15) embarking on a 36-hour operation to secure the removal of the material as quickly as possible.
Since the CTIRU launched in 2010, it has prompted the removal of over 160,000 pieces of extremist and terrorist material, much of which was flagged by members of public.
On average, it instigates the removal of over 1,000 pieces of material a week, including terrorist propaganda videos, pictures of beheadings, bomb-making instructions and speeches calling for racial or religious violence.
The CTIRU proactively trawls the web every day, looking for and seeking the removal of the material which is a source of inspiration for extremists, terrorists and is often a means of radicalising vulnerable people.
Earlier this month, 25-year-old Junead Khan from Luton was convicted for plotting to kill soldiers in the home counties. Detectives investigating Khan found that he had accessed and shared Daesh propaganda videos and instructions for making a suicide bomb online in the lead up to his planned murderous attack.
In the next 36 hours, community members, charity representatives and an array of other partners will take part in workshops with the CTIRU to discuss how they can work together with communities to remove more material.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, said: “Tackling extremist material is important to protect the public and prevent offences that incite or promote terrorism and extremism.
“The internet and social media provide many opportunities for those with extreme views to target young or vulnerable people, and their methods are constantly evolving, from using new phone apps to hijacking popular hashtags in order to reach wide audiences.
“The Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has put considerable effort into prompting the removal of terrorist and extremist material. We know that communities are very concerned about this material - and communities defeat terrorism, which is why police and the public will continue to work together on this.
“Police depend on information from the public in our efforts to help keep us all safe and we are asking anyone who has concerns about online content to report it by clicking the red STOP Terrorists’ and Extremists’ Online button.”
Detective Chief Inspector Matt Thompson, from Eastern Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit, said: “Those with extreme views are using the internet in order to target vulnerable people in order to radicalise them.
“It is vital that sites which seek to promote such a narrative are taken down so we can protect those at risk from exploitation. I would urge anyone who comes across such material online to report it via the STOP button.”
Minister for Internet Safety and Security, Baroness Shields, said: “I applaud the world-leading work of the police Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit and would urge the public to report terrorist and harmful extremist content when they see it.
“Everyone has the ability to recognise hatred and intolerance online. The internet was developed to bring people together, it is vital we work in partnership to stop those who exploit it to drive us apart.”
The CTIRU was the first unit in the world set up to tackle the proliferation of illegal terrorist and violent extremist content on the internet.
It works with service providers to instigate the removal and access terrorist and extremist material which breaks their terms of service. Once such material has been identified, the CTIRU sends the internet service provider an advisory note, seeking the removal of the material.
Publication of such material can also lead to those who publish it being investigated for offences under the Terrorist Act 2006.
There has been a rise in the amount of extremist and terrorist material online being removed, which is attributed to a range of factors including the proliferation of Daesh propaganda, communities becoming more willing to report material and Counter Terrorism Policing’s proactive approach in tackling it.
Year on year, the CTIRU has had more terrorist and extremist material removed from the internet. Almost a third of all material removed to date (55,000 pieces) was taken down in 2015 alone.
Every year the CTRIU receives more reports of material from concerned members of the public:
2010 and 2011 = 0 reports referred to the CTRIU
2012 = 1,167
2013 = 923
2014 = 1462
2015 = 2,995
Jan - March incl 2016 = 785
Following referrals from the public, partners and its own investigations, the CTRIU has instigated the removal of more extremist and terrorist material year-on-year:
2010 and 2011 = 1,527 pieces of extremist and terrorist material removed from the web
2012 = 1,885
2013 = 17,541
2014 = 51,431
2015 = 55,556
Jan - March incl 2016 = 26,479
This year the number of staff and officers working within the CTIRU has been increased to match the threat and help ensure material is identified and removed more quickly.