Britain to demand tech firms do more to tackle extremism

LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) – Britain will tell Google
, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft
on Thursday to do more to stop extremists posting
content on their platforms and using encrypted messaging
services to plan attacks.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Sunday tech companies
should stop offering a “secret place for terrorists to
communicate”, after British parliament attacker Khalid Masood
was widely reported to have sent encrypted messages moments
before he killed four people last week.

Rudd has summoned the internet companies to a meeting to
urge them to do more to block extremist content from platforms
like Facebook and Google’s YouTube, but a government spokesman
said encryption was also on the agenda.

“The message is the government thinks there is more they
can do in relation to taking down extremist and hate material
and that is what they are going to be talking about this
afternoon,” the prime minister’s spokesman said on Thursday.

“I’d expect encryption to come up but when these talks were
agreed it was in relation to extremist material.”

Some smaller tech firms will be at the meeting, another
spokesman said, but the list does not include Apple.

Facebook and Google declined to comment ahead of the
meeting. Microsoft and Twitter did not immediately respond to
requests for comment.

The U.S. internet giants have all raced over the past year
to show they are doing more to remove extremist material from
their sites, but argue that there is no technical silver bullet
that can fix the issue.

In December, they agreed with the European Union to create a
shared database to help each other speed this process once any
one of the companies identifies clearly illegal or inflammatory
content. (

Rudd said she was “calling time on terrorists using social
media as their platform” on Sunday, and she appealed for help
from the owners of encrypted messaging apps such as Facebook’s

Britain is already implementing sweeping new powers for
police and security services under the Investigative Powers Act
enacted last year.

“This may be just a way to impress on industry that the
government means business here,” said James Blessing, chairman
of the UK Internet Services Providers’ Association, which
represents more than 200 internet access and hosting firms.

The new law has provisions to force tech firms to help law
enforcement agencies bypass encryption, where possible, and keep
records of sites their customers visit, updating decades-old
surveillance laws.

The government has said it supports the use of encryption in
many business and consumer services, but it has also effectively
demanded that law enforcement be given privileged access to
decode encrypted extremist chatter.

Technical experts are in nearly universal agreement that
such back doors into encrypted systems will weaken security for
all web users as the openings used by police will eventually be
exploited by cybercriminals or foreign spies.

The European Union is also increasing pressure on the U.S.
major tech companies.

On Tuesday, EU Justice Minister Vera Jourova said the
commission will propose new policies in June to force Facebook,
Google, Microsoft and Twitter to make it easier for police to
access data.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle, Eric Auchard and Kylie MacLellan;
editing by Stephen Addison)

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