BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union plans to set up a cell of advisors in Belgium that member governments can tap to fight extremist propaganda, a top EU official told a newspaper Saturday.
“The idea is for Belgium to welcome a cell of experts who can offer European countries immediate responses to a very serious communications problem,” EU counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove told Le Soir newspaper.
Social media has become a powerful recruiting tool for extremists, with the Islamic State group posting several videos online showing grisly beheadings of Western hostages.
The experts taking part in the pilot project will offer “counter-narratives” and other messages to fight the propaganda used by Islamic State and other extremist groups, de Kerchove said.
For example, he said, the experts might be able to distribute interviews of jihadists who return from Syria disillusioned with the cause, either because they are shocked by “sick people who take pleasure in the violence” or because the battle is no longer about removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but rather a power struggle between insurgent groups.
De Kerchove said the project is not yet finalised but the European Commission, the EU executive arm, aims to set aside one million euros over 18 months to hire five or six experts who work inside the Belgian interior ministry, according to the daily.
He said the cell would have a limited capacity to advise simultaneously a handful of European governments seeking to tackle a communications problem.