European Police are Hunting Islamic State Social Media Accounts

By Mario Aguilar on at

The European Police Office (Europol) has put together a new task force to shut down social media accounts associated with so-called Islamic State (IS), the BBC reports. It’s a tough task—in fact, shutting IS’ social media presence down completely may be next to impossible.

The hope is that Europol officials can work with a list of unnamed social media companies to stem the flow of people from Europe to IS controlled lands. According to the report, some 5,000 EU citizen have travelled to IS territory.

It’s been long reported that social media, and Twitter in particular, is a crucial tool for IS recruitment. But dealing with the problem can be difficult for practical and philosophical reasons. First of all, it’s not easy to simply stamp out the entire IS social media presence. As the BBC points out, a study suggests there might be as many as 90,000 social media accounts associated with the Islamic State. It’s just too much to go after at once. One of the key charges of the new Europol team will be figuring out which accounts are the most crucial, and therefore most necessary to shut down.

Even if the right accounts do get shutdown, however, there’s no practical way to ensure that a closed account isn’t just replaced by another down the line. The effort to shut them down effectively turns into a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. It could also create a dangerous precedent to shut down accounts for political reasons. [BBC]

Photo via AP