THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A concerted crackdown on the Islamic State’s online propaganda machine has dealt a serious blow to the extremist group’s official news agency and communications channels, European law enforcement officials said Monday.
A four-day operation took down thousands of items, including accounts and information linked to the Amaq agency, which spreads IS propaganda and news, the officials said.
“If they want to come back on the same level they were before, it will take a huge effort,” said Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office. “We will see how they recuperate.”
The operation was coordinated by the law enforcement and judicial cooperation agencies of the European Union — Europol and Eurojust — and involved police and prosecutors from Spain and Belgium.
Experts at Europol identified more than 26,000 items of IS propaganda and referred them to nine online service providers including Google and Telegram to have them taken offline.
A man suspected of spreading IS propaganda was arrested in Spain.
Telegram’s encrypted communications app has often been used by extremists.
Europol praised Telegram, saying the company has worked hard to “root out the abusers of the platform by both bolstering its technical capacity in countering malicious content and establishing close partnerships with international organizations such as Europol.”
Underscoring the importance of the online action, Belgian prosecutor Patrick Willocx said that Islamic State propaganda “can be directly linked to the radicalization of European citizens or foreign terrorist fighters.”
The action that began Nov. 21 appeared to have an immediate effect.
JihadScope, which monitors jihadi activity across the internet, reported Nov. 22 that Islamic State-linked media outlet “Quraysh” was reporting the deletion of thousands of pro-IS accounts on Telegram and the extremist group’s media activists were telling supporters “to create multiple accounts, some for continued engagement & some to back up archives of terror content, videos etc.”
One of the group’s media arms, the Naser News Agency, which often carries the group’s statements, last posted on Nov. 21.
Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed.