UNCCT and INTERPOL jointly launched a new edition of a handbook for law enforcement on counter-terrorism investigations online

New York, 22 November 2021 - The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) hosted an event, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to launch the second edition of the handbook on “Using the Internet and Social Media for Counter-Terrorism Investigations”.

The objective of this Handbook is to support Member States’ national efforts to counter and prevent terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism by sharing good practices with law enforcement officials on how to use the Internet, including social media, for counter-terrorism investigations in full respect of human rights and the rule of law. 

There should be no impunity for terrorism, offline or online, and we must ensure that the digital space becomes a global common good for humanity, and not a safe haven for terrorists and other criminals,” stated the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Counter Terrorism and Executive Director of UNCCT, Mr. Vladimir Voronkov in his opening remarks. “This handbook will assist Member States in building their online investigation capacities following principles of accountability, competency, objectivity, and legality to uphold the rule of law and human rights,” he added.

The revised edition is a joint endeavour of UNOCT/UNCCT and INTERPOL to update law enforcement on the latest developments in the fast-evolving online space and the way terrorist and violent extremist groups misuse the internet to spread violent extremist ideologies, radicalize people and also incite, plan and finance terrorist attacks. 

The Special Representative of INTERPOL for the United Nations, Mr. Odd Reidar Humlegård, said thatthis Handbook is an excellent demonstration of the strong cooperation between UNOCT and INTERPOL, and our joint commitment to support member countries’ efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism”.  

His Excellency, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, Ambassador Mr. Takeshi Osuga, stated thatgiven the rapidly-evolving and highly technical nature of ICTs, it is not an easy task to comprehend new threats, acquire technical expertise and be well informed about legal and ethical safeguards. Such information should be made easily accessible and digestible. This is why Japan welcomes this handbook as a comprehensive guide for practitioners worldwide to confidently navigate the field of online investigation.

The handbook is structured in four sections that present: 

  1. Trends in the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes; 
  2. Good practices for conducting online investigations; 
  3. Requesting the preservation and collection of electronic evidence; 
  4. Practical examples of online investigations. 

The handbook also includes good practices for mainstreaming gender across counter-terrorism investigations, as well as ensuring respect for international humanitarian law, in particular, human rights, when conducting investigations online.

This edition was developed under the project entitled “Enhancing skills of officials from South Asia and South-East Asia in relation to structured methodologies for the collection of open-source information from the Internet and Social Media for counter-terrorism investigations”. The project is  funded by the Government of Japan, and implemented under the UNOCT/UNCCT Global Counter-Terrorism Programme on Cybersecurity and New Technologies.


The first edition of the handbook

The first edition of the handbook was launched in November 2019, with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the project entitled “Enhancing Member State capacities to use social media to prevent and counter the Foreign Terrorist Fighters phenomenon”. The first edition was made available to Member States through the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus and has been used as a reference guide for law enforcement since then.


Multiple United Nations resolutions refer to the threat of terrorist use of technologies. Security Council Resolution 2396 (2017) calls upon Member States to act cooperatively when taking national measures to prevent terrorists from exploiting technology, communications, and resources to support terrorist acts, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and consistent with their obligations under domestic and applicable international law.

The latest review resolution of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS) (A/RES/75/291), adopted by the General Assembly on 30 June 2021, expresses concern at the increasing and rapidly evolving use by terrorists and their supporters of information and communications technologies, in particular the Internet and other media, to commit, incite, recruit for, fund or plan terrorist acts and request the Office of Counter-Terrorism and other relevant Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact entities to jointly support innovative measures and approaches to build the capacities of Member States, upon their request, for the challenges and opportunities that new technologies provide, including the human rights aspects, in preventing and countering terrorism. 

The Global Counter-Terrorism Programme on Cybersecurity and New Technologies 

In response to Member States’ concerns and capacity building needs, UNOCT/UNCCT launched the Global Counter-Terrorism Programme on Cybersecurity and New Technologies to support Member States, international and regional organizations as well as United Nations entities, to raise awareness of the terrorist cyber-threat and to enhance technical capacities required to prevent, mitigate against and respond to terrorist and violent extremist groups misusing technologies like the Internet, encryption and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Programme also intends to enhance capacities of Member States to counter and investigate terrorist activities by gathering digital forensic evidence and through other applications of emerging technologies. This Programme has been funded with generous contributions from the Federal Republic of Germany, the Government of Japan, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.