IMPACT Europe news digest [#12]

Welcome to the twelfth installment of the IMPACT Europe news digest. Through this series, the IMPACT Europe team will endeavour to present you with a selection of news, commentaries, journals articles and web materials relating to research and policy developments touching on the subject matters underpinning IMPACT Europe’s project’s mission. To receive the latest updates on IMPACT Europe’s research, dissemination and outreach activities you can follow our Twitter account (@impacteurope) or sign up to our quarterly newsletter through our homepage.


This month, our news digest focusses on online CVE issues and strategy, reflecting recent developments and debates.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft launch new collaboration to identify and remove online violent extremist propaganda

Various sources

On 5 December, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube announced plans to collaborate on a new information-sharing initiative to more efficiently identify and remove images and videos deemed to be promoting terrorism. These companies will use a newly developed technology to assign such content unique identifiers, or “hashes”, which will be uploaded to a shared database. This will allow the other companies to scan their own platforms for these hashes and remove the particular images or videos in accordance with their platform’s policies. The details of the scheme are yet to be finalised, but the approach is similar to that used to detect and report images of child sexual abuse. However, critics warn that, unlike the detection of pedopornographic content, there will be no single, expert body responsible for identifying terrorist content. Moreover, critics stress that it may be more difficult to determine what is and what is not terrorist content, especially when an image or video is viewed out of the context in which it was shared. Concerns have therefore been raised that the initiative may threaten freedom of speech, especially in those cases where the definition of terrorism is contested. It has also been pointed out that the effectiveness of the system may be compromised if the tech companies’ different policies mean that particular content may be removed from some platforms, but not from others. It has also been questioned whether the censorship of terrorist content is even an effective counter violent extremism strategy.

Sources: Link#1, Link#2, Link#3

Second High-level meeting of the EU Internet Forum

European Commission – Press release

On 8 December, the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Mr Dimitris Avramopoulos, and the Commissioner for Security Union, Sir Julian King, convened in Brussels the second high-level meeting of the EU Internet Forum. On this occasion, attending internet companies took the opportunity to present plans for their new hash-sharing initiative aimed at tackling the diffusion of extremist content online (see news above). At the meeting, the attending companies also committed to support the European Commission’s Civil Society Empowerment Programme, which was launched the same day. Through this programme, the European Commission will invest €10 million to support civil society in promoting effective alternative narratives online and at scale. The EU Internet Forum was set up in 2015 with the objective of: (i) reducing internet users’ access to violent extremist content online; and (ii) empowering civil society actors to increase the volume of effective counter-narrative messaging shared online.

Link: [link]

The Counter-Narrative Monitoring and Evaluation Handbook

Institute for Strategic Dialogue

In recent years, the development of counter-narrative campaigns to prevent and counter the spread of violent extremist views online has become a core focus of CVE work. Practitioners involved in these activities pursue a range of strategies aiming to both delegitimise extremist narratives and ideologies, and promote positive alternatives. This handbook, funded by the European Commission and developed by the Institute for Strategic dialogue, offers a beginner’s guide to evaluating counter-narrative campaigns. It provides readers with the tools and knowledge to design and implement high-quality counter-narrative campaign evaluations. It is hoped that this handbook will enable practitioners working with counter-narratives to better assess the impact of their activities, build on best practice, and raise the quality of counter-narrative campaigning more widely. The handbook can be used alongside other resources made freely available by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue: the Counter-narrative Toolkit and Counter Narrative Handbook.

Link: [link]

Lighting the Path: the Evolution of the Islamic State Media Enterprise (2003-2016)

International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague

In this paper, Craig Whiteside seeks to expand existing research on the content, quality and quantity of Islamic State (IS) media products with an analysis of the history and evolution of the movement’s media department. The author presents an examination of four stages of the group’s development: its early growth (2002-2006); defeat and adjustment (2006-2010); expansion to caliphate (2011-2014); and contraction beginning in 2015. Through this study, the author explores the interplay of people, ideas, organisational structures and process of innovation that have contributed to the IS media’s formula for success. From this analysis, Whiteside draws insights into the identity, strategy, patterns of behaviour and vulnerabilities of the IS media enterprise that could be exploited by policymakers working to defeat IS.

Link: [link]

Media Development and Countering Violent Extremism: An Uneasy Relationship, a Need for Dialogue

Center for International Media Assistance

This paper presents a discussion of the perceived effects of the CVE agenda on efforts to strengthen an independent, responsible, and plural media sector as a fundamental element of sustainable democracies (termed ‘media development’). The growth of violent extremist propaganda online has seen CVE policymakers and practitioners focus on the use of strategic communications. This has been seen as controversial at times by media development practitioners who are concerned that the rhetoric and practice of CVE may threaten their work and objectives. Recognising the ideological tensions and potential conflict between these different agendas, the author argues, however, that a convergence of the two fields, based on their shared interests and goals, must be acknowledged. The author therefore recommends an agenda for increased dialogue and coordination between the two sectors, including research to better understand the impact of their respective approaches, in order to develop more effective, evidence-based responses to the spread of violent extremist views online.

Link: [link]


  • World Forum on Urban Violence and Education for Coexistence and Peace
    Capital de Paz Madrid
    18-21 April 2017, Madrid, Spain

[Image shared by uditha wickramanayaka via Flickr; CC BY 2.0]