UK to complain at G7 that Google and Facebook should do more to fight terror

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 6:20am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 6:20am

Prime Minister Theresa May will take her beef with Google and Facebook to the Group of Seven meeting in Sicily, where the UK leader will call on Internet companies to do more to fight terrorism and take extremist material offline.

In the wake of the Manchester bombing, the prime minister will say that companies should develop tools to automatically identify and remove material based on what it contains and who has posted it -- and help the authorities identify and catch extremists, according to a senior British official speaking on condition of anonymity to preview the plan.

May believes Facebook and others are not doing enough and wants tech firms to block users who post extremist content. Where there’s evidence that the material is harmful, she wants them to report this material to the relevant authorities.

She will argue that the tech industry has a social responsibility to remove all harmful, extremist content from its networks, as she leads a discussion on countering terrorism at the G-7 summit at the site of an ancient Greek theatre.

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Even before Manchester, May’s team was drawing up plans to push Internet communication services to do more to tackle harmful content. May’s Conservative party is said to be preparing steps to force companies to remove encryption from messages, if served with a warrant, The Sun newspaper reported earlier this month.

May’s intervention comes as the UK is on the highest alert for further terrorist attacks, with thousands of troops taking to the streets to help keep the public safe after Monday’s concert bombing, which killed 22 people. She is leaving the summit a day early to return to London.

A former home secretary who ran Britain’s counter-terror policy department, May will tell the G-7 that the terrorist threat from Islamic State is evolving rather than disappearing. As the group loses ground in Iraq and Syria, she will say the fight is moving from the battlefield to the Internet, according to a briefing from the official.

Companies should also tell the authorities when they identify harmful material so that action can be taken to help law enforcement to identify the users, the UK official said.

May also wants the G-7 to help establish an international industry-led forum to help companies work together on these issues. Tech firms should revise industry guidelines to ensure they are clear about what constitutes harmful material and those companies that refuse should be held to account, the official said.