The European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol this week coordinated an operation aimed at cracking down on racist and xenophobic messages online.
The action was led by the German Bundeskriminalamt, the federal criminal police, and also involved police in Czechia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The operation was coordinated by Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC).
The ECTC was created in 2016, and is described as “an operations centre and hub of expertise that reflects the growing need for the EU to strengthen its response to terror”. It now has more than 80 staff members as well as 14 experts seconded from member states.
As well as tackling terrorism, it also works closely with the European Cybercrime Centre and the European Migrant Smuggling Centre.
On the day of the operation, law enforcement in the nine countries raided 97 premises, including 81 homes in Germany alone. They detained a number if individuals for questioning in relation to the dissemination of racist and xenophobic hate speech, calls to violence and incitement to commit offences.
“The coordinated action targeted communities and individuals spreading hate via the internet using different types of content such as posts, comments, and memes that spread hate and propaganda,” Europol said in a statement.
“Law enforcement also worked together to increase the awareness of individuals and groups that the World Wide Web is not a legal vacuum. Supposed anonymity does not hinder law enforcement from taking measures against unlawful acts. This first joint action day on hate crimes sends a clear signal to individuals spreading violent hatred on the internet that their actions will be detected.”
As well as the nine member states taking part, others such as Finland helped raise awareness by posting messages about the subject on social media.
The Brussels Times