For immediate release | Wednesday, March 20, 2019

CEP Marks Westminster, Brussels Anniversary, Calls for Action on Extremist Content Online

Press Contact:

Media at CEP

(New York, N.Y.) – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) issued the following statements today to mark the March 22 joint anniversary of the 2017 Westminster Bridge attack and the 2016 Brussels bombings, which together claimed 37 innocent lives.

CEP Executive Director David Ibsen: “On this day, we commemorate two tragic events that horrified and saddened us all — the Westminster Bridge attack and the Brussels bombings. These attacks resonate even more strongly following the attack in Christchurch last Friday and what appears to have been a terrorist attack in Utrecht this week.

“Both the Brussels and Westminster attacks were made possible by the lack of means to properly investigate or track radicalised individuals. Following the attacks, Belgium and the U.K. have taken a series of important and necessary measures towards bringing a holistic approach to counter extremism. Radicalisation needs to be addressed through education, police cooperation and grassroots prevention, especially targeting youth and blocking the pernicious spread of terrorist contents online.

“Online radicalisation has played  a key role in the vast majority of the attacks in Europe. Access to illegal and horrific terrorist content is a problem that has not been adequately addressed. Social media’s inability to prevent the live-streaming and spread of video content from the Christchurch attack once again demonstrated the unwillingness of the industry to take these issues seriously and utilize technology that is readily available and capable of permanently preventing its re-upload. To avoid a similar horrific incident in Europe, regulatory action is needed to force social media companies to take responsibility.”

CEP Senior Advisor and prison expert, Ian Acheson: “These attacks demonstrated the need for more effective detection at the prison and custodial level to prevent individual radicalisation. The two brothers behind the bombings of the Brussels airport were radicalised in prison, where they served sentences for non-extremist crimes. We have seen that there is a crime-terror nexus we need to take seriously. Young men and women in prison are vulnerable to radicalisation, and therefore they are privileged targets for Islamist networks. The individuals should be subject to proper supervision while imprisoned, and should receive the proper social and community support after their release back into society.”