Regulations and Policies
Regulatory measures encompass the traditional modes of national laws, strategies, and policies. They also include international treaties and protocols; the resolutions, decisions and public declarations made by the part of international organizations; and capacity-building initiatives for bolstering the enforcement of counter-terrorism at the national and global levels.
The regulatory toolbox for addressing terrorists’ use of the internet increasingly leverages the policies initiated by social media platforms and applied by them to monitor and remove terrorist content. These policies constitute a type of self-regulation that raises interesting and important issues of corporate autonomy and oversight, especially in democratic, rule of law countries.
The international organizations reviewed here approach the counter-terrorism challenges of terrorist use of the internet through a variety of regulatory tools. These include multilateral agreements and arrangements, such as the EU’s March 2017 Directive on combatting terrorism, including terrorist use of the internet; as well as white papers such as the OSCE’s counter-terrorism committments of 2018. In addition, international organizations such as INTERPOL and Europol have dedicated resources and capacity building to the fight against online terrorism activities. One example is INTERPOL’s Counter-Terrorism Fusion Center, located in Greenland and focusing on terrorist use of social media platforms. International organizations can play an important role in setting trans-national, multilateral definitions of terrorist activity in cyberspace, legal and practical norms for combatting illicit terrorist activity online beyond national borders, and modes of cooperation for bolstering law enforcement globally.
Countries traditionally regulate counter-terrorism measures through national strategies, laws and policies. These regulatory measures have effect within jurisdictional boundaries and are enforced through national policing and security authorities that are both defined by law, and subject to judicial review of their activities. The countries reviewed for the ICTRP represent a diversity of approaches to defining terrorist activity on the internet, to regulating its illegality, and to establishing enforcement powers to mitigate its impact. Some countries address terrorist activity online separately from such activity in the physical world, and others do not make such a separation. Israel’s Counterterrorism Law of 2016, for example, adopts a unified approach that categorizes illegal activity as an act of terrorism according to its end result. In the context of enforcement measures, several countries, such as France and the UK, have made strides forward by engaging the public in the identification of terrorist content online.
Social Media Platforms
The use of social media platforms (SMPs) by terrorist groups to promote their ideologies, distribute propaganda, recruit operatives, and collect funds has become a key issue for regulators and social media platforms alike. While governments may undertake regulatory and enforcement initiatives, including judicial or administrative takedown orders for terrorist content on social media platforms, several SMPs have published policies for their users that specifically define the types of terrorist content that will result in a prompt investigation and eventual removal from their platforms. This process may be supported by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning programs that identify and remove such content, in addition to human staff who review and escalate removal requests. Two examples are Facebook’s Community Standards Guidelines that define “dangerous individuals and organizations”, including a terrorist and terrorist organizations; and Twitter’s policy prohibiting violent threats and the glorification of violence, including terrorist acts.