New app launched for reporting terrorist material as extremists ‘exploit pandemic’

A new app is being launched for the anonymous reporting of terrorist material they come across online.

The project comes amid concerns that the coronavirus pandemic has created fertile conditions for isolated and vulnerable people, including children, to become radicalised.

The iREPORTit app, which will become available on Wednesday morning, will allow users to flag online material to the national Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU).

Neil Basu, the head of UK counterterror policing, said: “Specialist officers are ready and waiting to look at each and every single referral sent via the app.

“Where material breaches UK terrorism legislation, they will seek its removal, even if the website host is based in another country, because every piece that is removed from the internet is no longer out in the ether, potentially radicalising vulnerable people and encouraging them to cause serious harm to others.”

Developers Raven Science said the app was confidential and anonymous, and that no personally identifiable information would be collected. Reports will be seen only by the CTIRU.

Jon, a former far-right extremist who did not want his full name published, said that terrorist material like Isis propaganda videos can be used by radicalisers on both sides of the spectrum.

He told The Independent that when he was around 15, he was sent footage of beheadings by Isis militants “in the context of ‘this is what we’re fighting against’”.

“That video stuck with me for a long time,” Jon added. “My main hope for the app is to stop people getting exposed to this extreme content.”

Jon, who now works for the Exit UK counter-extremism group, said that Covid-19 has created an even greater reliance on online recruitment and that groups were intensifying propaganda efforts.

The app was created with £40,000 of funding from the mayor of London, but can be used by anyone in the UK.

Sadiq Khan said: “We know terrorists and extremists are set on exploiting the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the pandemic for their own gain. With more people than ever online for longer periods, often at home alone or in isolated environments, I’m determined to do everything I can to counter that threat and help keep Londoners safe.”

Mr Khan said the app would be available to “everyone across the UK”, but added: “We urgently need the government and tech firms to step up and do more now to prevent the rapid spread of terrorist and extremism material online.

“Insidious voices are growing louder online, and we must all work together to counter hate, intolerance, extremism and terrorism.”

Research commissioned by City Hall previously found that four out of five Londoners were unsure how to report extremist material from internet search engines during the pandemic

The survey sparked a challenge for technology companies to propose solutions for reducing the amount of terrorist content online, and the app was the winning entry.

It will initially run as a three-month pilot and will be made permanent depending on the number of downloads and resulting referrals, following an evaluation by the CTIRU.

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