As part of #JusticeTogether week, we’ve been exploring different roles across Counter Terrorism Policing.
For our final instalment, we wanted to talk to someone working in a unit with an ever-evolving remit, the UK’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU).
The unit is based within the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, and works with internet service providers to have terrorist content removed.
What happens day to day in the CTIRU? What are officers and staff working on?
Our mixed team of officers and staff work on a huge variety of material, involving lots of different ideologies. The online world is a fertile place for those who are wanting to share or create dangerous content, this could be posters promoting terrorist ideologies, or direct calls for others to carry out violent, terrorist acts. The range of content we deal with is significant.
What type of content is reported to the CTIRU? What type of content is being removed from the internet?
Members of the public can anonymously report any online content that they deem to be illegal or harmful, via the Public Referral Tool. This might be articles, speeches, images or videos that promote terrorism, or encourage violence; or websites made by terrorist or extremist organisations.
Once a piece of content is reported, what happens next?
The CTIRU case officer will evaluate the content against of the Terrorism Act or other pertinent UK legislation and will then complete an assessment. Depending on the case officer’s assessment, an investigation may be commenced into the person who posted the original content or a request will be sent to the host platform to consider removing the internet from their platform.
Every year, the public sends in thousands of links of suspected terrorist and extremist content that they’ve stumbled upon online and feel uneasy about. They act on their instinct and the CTIRU are there 365 days a year, ready and waiting to assess each referral.
We always advise, that if you’re in any doubt, send it to us and we’ll take it from there.
How has the CTIRU’s role changed since it was set up in 2010?
The biggest difference is our relationships with internet service providers and online platforms. They are now removing much more material of their own volition which is great progress. We have put a huge amount of work into our engagement with companies across the world, and this is certainly making a difference.
This shift, means that the CTIRU now has more capacity to assist with live investigations. Whether that’s seeking convictions for those creating, or disseminating terrorist content, or making sure appropriate safeguarding measures are in place.
What is the most challenging thing about the work of the CTIRU?
Due to the unique nature of unit’s role, CTIRU case officers are regularly exposed to extreme internet based terrorist material. This contains images, words and audio, including intense violence and content designed to shock and draw the viewer to the cause of terrorists across the world. CTIRU officers and staff are subject to mandatory occupational health assessments, and welfare of the team is of paramount importance to us.
What part do the public play in your work?
We can’t do it without them, public referrals and reports really do make a difference.
There have been lots of examples of when reports from the public have led to successful terrorism convictions. This really demonstrates the real-life consequences that posting online content can have.
The more we talk about these types of cases, the more empowered people will feel to report content which concerns them.
We know it can be really difficult for people to report concerns about loved ones, family members or their children, but it’s really important that you do seek advice or support if you are worried about someone.