Mr. Wallace, while speaking on Sunday Politics (from 19:52) and BBC Radio 5 Live, said that a Conservative government would increase the pressures exerted on social media firms whose regulations and data encryption enable online extremism on their platforms. He said that a Tory government, if re-elected, would be ‘open to all the measures’ that could be applied to these companies. More specifically, he said that the government would look at potential changes to the law and financial pressures.
Speaking on 5 Live, he said: “I think the answer is we will be putting pressure on them. I’m not going to sit here and pick off the top of my head whether that would be through financial or legal ways but we think they can do more, they have the money to do more and some companies do do more.”
Mr. Wallace accused social media organisations of not cooperating to their fullest extent when it comes to preventing online extremism, particularly by encrypting their users’ communications and pleading censorship when confronted by enforcement. “The challenge is not that we are not getting information from the streets. The challenge is the sheer scale of what we are getting and the growth of it and at the same time when we need to follow up that information, the encryption that is out there and the technology makes it very, very hard to follow it up.”
He continued his attack on Sunday Politics, claiming that companies’ non-cooperation was particularly damning given their tendency to ‘flog their customers’ details to other corporations and labelling them ‘ruthless money-makers’. “And that’s why I think the Prime Minister was right to step up not only the language she has used but to say we are not going to allow this to progress any-more.”
This comment was in reference to Theresa May’s more stringent rhetoric surrounding social media and safety, most prominently laid out in the Conservative’s election manifesto for 2017. Chapter 5 of the manifesto – titled ‘Prosperity and Security in a Digital Age’ – details most crucially that laws surrounding content online should be no different from those offline.
The manifesto declares: “We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm. We will make clear the responsibility of platforms to enable the reporting of inappropriate, bullying, harmful or illegal content, with take-down on a comply-or-explain basis.” The manifesto also outlines that companies have a ‘commitment’ to ‘identify and remove terrorist propaganda’ and that the government, if re-elected, will push for the ‘technical tools’ to be put in place for these commitments to be fulfilled.
The section ends by pledging to continue the £1.9 Billion investment in cyber-security and build on the establishment of the National Cyber Security Centre, opened last year. The manifesto reads: “We will make sure that our public services, businesses, charities and individual users are protected from cyber risks. We will further strengthen cyber security standards for government and public services, requiring all public services to follow the most up to date cyber security techniques appropriate [sic].”