Theresa May is set to demand that large technology companies go “further and faster,” in the fight against terrorism in a speech delivered at the United Nations general assembly today. Together with the leaders of France and Italy, she will challenge organisations to develop technology to prevent “evil material” appearing on the web.
Tech giants will be given one month to prove that they are taking measures against the spread of terrorist content on their platforms, or face the threat of fines.
The Prime Minister will reportedly say: “Terrorist groups are aware that links to their propaganda are being removed more quickly, and are placing a greater emphasis on disseminating content at speed in order to stay ahead. We need a fundamental shift in the scale and nature of our response – both from industry and governments – if we are to match the evolving nature of terrorists’ use of the internet.
“I call on others to join the UK, France, and Italy in pledging their support for this approach. This is a global problem that transcends national interests.”
Commenting on the issue, a Downing Street source said: “These companies have been doing something, but just not enough. They have some of the best brains in the world. They should really be focusing that on what matters, which is stopping the spread of terrorism and violence. We want them to break the echo chambers.”
Technology companies are facing increasing scrutiny from the UK Government for their handling of extremist content following the London Bridge attack in June. The perpetrators were revealed to have co-ordinated the attacks through encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram.
Sky News revealed that the UK Government demanded access to WhatsApp messages in the wake of the attacks – a request that was reportedly denied. The inability to access terrorists’ encrypted messages has created a “black hole” in investigations for the security services, a source told them.
In a statement posted on their website, a WhatsApp spokesperson said: “Naturally, people have asked what end-to-end encryption means for the work of law enforcement. WhatsApp appreciates the work that law enforcement agencies do to keep people safe around the world.
“We carefully review, validate, and respond to law enforcement requests based on applicable law and policy, and we prioritise responses to emergency requests.”