Europol, the European police agency, is launching a new police team to combat Islamic State (ISIS) online, in an attempt to block the remarkably successful recruitment through social media that has seen citizens of the West flock to jihad in Syria and Iraq.
Europol is to work with social media companies to track the accounts of ISIS members, reports the BBC on Monday.
The new team has a target goal of shutting down new ISIS-affiliated accounts within two hours of those accounts being established.
That is likely to be a hefty goal, as a recent US study indicated there are at least 46,000 ISIS related accounts on Twitter alone – Brookings Institute analysts predict that number could actually be as high as 90,000.
As many as 5,000 EU citizens, including from France, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium, have gone to areas under ISIS control according to Europol, indicating how devastatingly effective the online recruitment techniques of the brutal terrorist organization have been.
According to Aaron Zelin, a member of the Washington Institute and an expert on jihadist groups, Twitter is used to draw the interest of new recruits but not to directly bring them into the ranks of ISIS.
He told BBC that other online programs such as Skype, WhatsApp and Kik which enable direct communication are where the nitty-gritty talks about launching one's jihadist career are actually conducted.
The role of the internet in ISIS's recruitment has been seen on many occasions; one case last February gave the dangers clear expression when three teenage girls who attended the same school in London abandoned their homes for Syria via Turkey.
It was revealed that one of them, Shamima Begum, had been in contact with the wife of an ISIS terrorist on Twitter. A family lawyer said police had been monitoring the messages, and should have taken action before she and her friends left the UK.