The Swiss authorities have blocked over 300 violent jihadist videos, mainly on YouTube, over the past year. While the online platforms react quickly to Swiss requests, criminal charges cannot be filed against those publishing the films, which are located on foreign computer servers.
As a follow-up to information from citizens and monitoring by the Swiss intelligence services and federal police (Fedpol), jihadi videos are systematically identified and studied. Between March 2016 and October 2017, the Swiss authorities blocked over 300 videos on YouTube showing violent acts or explicitly inciting people to commit violence.
The Federal Council (executive body) confirmed the information last week in a written replyexternal link to a question by the Swiss People’s Party parliamentarian Franz Grüter, the Luzerner Zeitungexternal link and 24 Heures newspapers reported on Tuesday.
Fedpol spokeswoman Cathy Maret said most films were blocked on YouTube and to a lesser extent on Facebook.
The federal police are considered a “Trusted Flagger” by Google,external link which means their reports and requests are treated swiftly as a priority by the online giant. Other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter also have special channels for law enforcement agencies, Maret added.
However, as the written reply goes on, these violent videos are not broadcast or published from Switzerland and therefore do not fall under Swiss criminal law and possible prosecution as support to terrorist organisations.
As soon as a video is discovered, the Swiss police simply contact their foreign counterparts to enable an investigation to be launched abroad.
Grüter told Luzerner Zeitung that the extreme videos nonetheless represent “a danger to the state and its citizens”. He believes the Swiss authorities should be given “greater powers to take action against this kind of propaganda”.
Maret said under existing legislation, Fedpol, unlike the intelligence service, cannot actively search the internet for these kinds of videos without a specific cause. Such a decision would require an initial suspicion of a criminal offence.
“We report videos which we discover during investigations or which are reported to us by citizens,” she said, adding that around two reports were filed every week. However, the Federal Intelligence Service has the possibility of carrying out systematic online searches as part of so-called jihad monitoring.
Earlier this year, Switzerland’s intelligence service identified 90 people living in Switzerland as being “at risk” of jihadism. Another 500 are considered “virtual” jihadists for their internet activity.