Research Handbook on Human Rights and Digital Technology
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Research Handbook on Human Rights and Digital Technology

Global Politics, Law and International Relations

Edited by Ben Wagner, Matthias C. Kettemann and Kilian Vieth

In a digitally connected world, the question of how to respect, protect and implement human rights has become unavoidable. This contemporary Research Handbook offers new insights into well-established debates by framing them in terms of human rights. It examines the issues posed by the management of key Internet resources, the governance of its architecture, the role of different stakeholders, the legitimacy of rule making and rule-enforcement, and the exercise of international public authority over users. Highly interdisciplinary, its contributions draw on law, political science, international relations and even computer science and science and technology studies.
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Chapter 16: Policing ‘online radicalization’: the framing of Europol’s Internet Referral Unit

Kilian Vieth


How is the relationship between radicalization, terrorism and internet content framed? This chapter analyzes the discursive practices underlying Europol’s Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU), a body that makes recommendations to internet industry players for takedown of online content, with the aim of understanding the (in)security dynamics of online (counter-) radicalization and assessing the related human rights issues. Attempts to police online content for counter-radicalization purposes are always framed by sense-making practices. This chapter therefore tries to better understand the meaning of (counter-)radicalization as it is used by professionals working in the field. The European Police Office (Europol) is one of the transnational security actors heavily involved in the changing field of security, both as a driver and a symbol of a changing security landscape. The EU IRU embodies an interface between public and private content regulation, with thus far unclear ramifications for freedom of expression on the internet. The analysis shows that the black-box-like character of the platforms’ removal processes is strategically used to secretly leverage filtering practices. Practitioners are aware that many takedown measures only treat symptoms, not causes, of terrorism and extremism. Technology alone does not cause and will not solve the radicalization challenge. Other, more creative ways of perceiving and conceptualizing online radicalization and online extremism are necessary to design evidence-based policies that work for all.

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