Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit

The Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) was set up in 2010 by ACPO (and run by the Metropolitan Police) to remove unlawful terrorist material content from the internet with a focus on UK based material. Content that incites or glorifies terrorist acts can be removed under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006. CTIRU compiles a list of URLs for material hosted outside of the UK which are blocked on networks of the public estate.


Only number of items is reported and requests for more detailed information, such as companies involved, have been denied as "this may provide terrorist groups with useful information"[1], but general numbers have been reported in parliament.

Between establishment in February 2010 and March 2015 it has "taken down 75,000 individual items"[2] and by June 2015 was taking down an average of 1000 "pieces" per week[3].

CTIRU take downs (approx)
Period (assumed) Takedowns (guess) Total
Feb 2010 - Mar 2012 Unknown, <3000 Unknown, <3000
Apr 2012 - Mar 2013 3,538 [4] Unknown < 6000
Mar 2013 - Jun 2013 unknown 6000 [5]
Jul 2013 - Sep 2013 500 6500 [6]
Oct 2013 - Dec 2013 11500 18000 [7]
Jan 2014 - Feb 2014 8000 26000 [8]
Mar 2014 3000 29000 [9]
Apr 2014 - Jun 2014 5000 34000 [10]
Jul 2014 6000 40000 [11][12],
Aug 2014 - Oct 2014 11000 51000 [13][14]
Nov 2014 14000 65000 [15]
Dec 2014 - Jan 2015 7000 72000 [16]
Feb 2015 3000 75000 [17]
Mar 2015 5000 80000 [18]
Apr - May 2015 10000 90000 [19]
"I underline the fact that any online activity by the three groups under consideration, including Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, has been referred to CTIRU. If it is assessed as illegal—there is a legal test that has to be met—CTIRU will flag it directly to Facebook and Twitter for removal."[20]


CTIRU have developed and are updating a list of URLs that are hosted abroad and which it is assessed the distribution or hosting of which would (in the absence of any statutory defence) give rise to criminal liability under the provisions of the Terrorism Act 2006. All material filtered from the public estate is therefore considered to be illegal under the Terrorism Act 2006, as assessed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS),.[21]
There is no formal appeal process but if there is concern regarding the filtering of a specific URL containing illegal material, contact should be made with Home Office.

ISP filters

The December 2013 report of the Prime Minister's Extremism task force[22] said that it would "work with internet companies to restrict access to terrorist material online which is hosted overseas but illegal under UK law" and "work with the internet industry to help them in their continuing efforts to identify extremist content to include in family- friendly filters" which would likely involve lobbying ISPs to add the CTIRU list to their filters without the need for additional legislation.

In November 2014 it was announced that [23] BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media would incorporate the CTIRU blocklist into their filters.

Freedom of Information

A request to the Home Office for details of sites taken down was rejected in 2010[24] since ACPO is a private company and not subject to FOIA requests prior to November 2011.

See also

External links


  1. Hansard, 2015-03-03 - "Since its creation in 2010, CTIRU has secured the removal of more than 75,000 pieces of terrorist and extremist content."
  2. Hansard, 2015-03-03
  3. Hansard, 2015-06-11 - "The counter-terrorism internet referral unit has been, and is now, taking down about 1,000 pieces of terrorist material per week from the internet."
  4. Hansard, 2013-09-23 - "Figures for April 2012 to March 2013 stand at 3,538 pieces of online content removed."
  5. Hansard, 2013-06-26 "Since its establishment in 2010, this unit has removed approximately 6,000 pieces of online terrorist content."
  6. Hansard, 2013-09-23 - "Since the CTIRU was established in February 2010, approximately 6,500 pieces of online content have been removed to date through CTIRU action."
  7. Hansard, 2013-12-12 - "To date ... has removed more than 18,000 pieces of illegal material."
  8. Hansard, 2014-03-10 - "since 2010, it has removed more than 26,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material online"
  9. Hansard, 2014-04-02 - "has taken down more than 29,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material from the internet"
  10. Hansard, 2014-06-19 - "has taken down 34,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content which encourage or glorify acts of terrorism, of which 15,000 have come down since the extremism taskforce concluded in 2013."
  11. Hansard, 2014-07-07 - "has now taken down 40,000 items from the web"
  12. Hansard, 2014-07-30 - "21,000 pieces [since December 2013]"
  13. Hansard, 2014-10-24 - " since December 2013 we have removed from the internet over 32,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content, taking the overall total to over 51,000 since 2010"
  14. Hansard, 2014-10-13 "Since 2013, over 32,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content have been removed from the internet."
  15. Home Secretary Theresa May on counter-terrorism, GOV.UK, 2014-11-24 - "Since the start of this government, the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has secured the removal of 65,000 items from the internet that encouraged or glorified acts of terrorism. More than 46,000 of these have been removed since December last year."
  16. Hansard, 2015-01-21 - "It has taken down 72,000 individual items since it was established in 2010"
  17. Hansard, 2015-03-03 - " Since its creation in 2010, CTIRU has secured the removal of more than 75,000 pieces of terrorist and extremist content."
  18. Hansard, 2015-03-25 - "since February 2010 has secured the removal of more than 80,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content"
  19. Hansard, 2015-06-09 - "Since 2010, over 90,000 pieces of terrorist-related material have been removed at the request of the dedicated Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit."
  20. Hansard, 2014-04-02
  21. FOI #160774, 2013-06-28, Home Office
  22. Tackling extremism in the UK: report by the Extremism Taskforce, GOV.UK, 2013-12-04
  23. UK ISPs to introduce jihadi and terror content reporting button, Guardian, 2014-11-14
  24. Number of websites taken down by Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), 2010-06-14