Global Politics, Law and International Relations
Edited by Ben Wagner, Matthias C. Kettemann and Kilian Vieth
Chapter 16: Policing ‘online radicalization’: the framing of Europol’s Internet Referral Unit
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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