TERRORIST websites spreading messages of hate and dangerous know-how will be targeted by a national police unit which was launched yesterday.
Government officials and senior police officers hope the small team will better co-ordinate work to silence online extremists.
They want to replicate the success of police in hunting down paedophiles who use the internet to exchange sick images and information.
The Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) will handle tip-offs from members of the public about suspect sites.
Investigators will work with internet service providers to remove illegal content or alert authorities overseas.
The move came after it emerged that the government has never used powers granted under the Terrorism Act 2006 to close down a website.
Speaking in the House of Lords last November, security minister Lord West said police forces preferred to use informal channels to shut sites.
He said the government was "trading blows toe-to-toe" with internet radicals and hoped to "jolly well knock them for six".
Lord West said police forces prefer to use "informal contact" with companies who host potentially illegal material to get rid of it.
CTIRU, comprising five detectives and civilian employees from forces across England and Wales, began work yesterday.
They will remove sites containing information about weapons and targets that could help terrorists strike, as well as those promoting extremist groups.