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.


Between establishment in 2010 and January 2015 it has "taken down 72,000 individual items"[1]

Detailed statistics do not appear to be publicly reported, but general numbers have been reported in parliament:

From February 2010 to 2013 it had requested removal of "approximately 6500 pieces of online content"[2] with "over 51,000" items being removed between 2010 and October 2014[3]

"Figures for April 2012 to March 2013 stand at 3,538 pieces of online content removed."[4] By December 2013 had "removed more than 18,000 pieces of illegal material",[5] and by March 2014 "it has removed more than 26,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material online"[6], "29,000 pieces" by April 2014.[7], "34,000 pieces" by June 2014[8], "40,000 items" by July 2014[9][10], "over 32,000 pieces" between Jan-October 2014[11] "65,000" pieces between May 2010 and November 2014, "46,000" in 2014 to mid-November.[12]

"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."[13]


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),.[14]
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[15] 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 [16] 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[17] since ACPO is a private company and not subject to FOIA requests prior to November 2011.

See also

External links


  1. Hansard, 2015-01-21
  2. Hansard, 2013-06-26 - "approximately 6000" in June 2013 between 2010 and June 2013.
  3. Hansard, 2014-10-23
  4. Hansard, 2013-09-23
  5. Hansard, 2013-12-12
  6. Hansard, 2014-03-10
  7. Hansard, 2014-04-02
  8. Hansard, 2014-06-19
  9. Hansard, 2014-07-07
  10. Hansard, 2014-07-30 - "21,000 pieces [since December]" (implying a minimum of 1000 items in Dec 2013)
  11. Hansard, 2014-10-13 "Since 2013, over 32,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content have been removed from the internet."
  12. 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."
  13. Hansard, 2014-04-02
  14. FOI #160774, 2013-06-28, Home Office
  15. Tackling extremism in the UK: report by the Extremism Taskforce, GOV.UK, 2013-12-04
  16. UK ISPs to introduce jihadi and terror content reporting button, Guardian, 2014-11-14
  17. Number of websites taken down by Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), 2010-06-14