- Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson have ramped up pressure on internet companies
- Warned they are acting as a ‘conduit’ for terrorists and must be more ‘proactive’
- Focus on issue has intensified in wake of Westminster terror attack last week
James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline
Amber Rudd, seen arriving for an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show today, has hit out at internet companies for failing to block extremist content
Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson have stepped up the pressure on internet firms over their ‘disgusting’ failure to block extremist content.
The Cabinet ministers warned that companies such as Google and Facebook are acting as a ‘conduit’ for murderous terrorists, and demanded they be more ‘proactive’ in tackling the problem.
The government is also calling for security services to be given access to encrypted WhatsApp messages, warning it is ‘completely unacceptable’ that terrorists can plot in secret.
Focus on the issue has intensified in the wake of the deadly attack on Westminster last week, when Khalid Masood used a hired car to mow down dozens of pedestrians before stabbing a policeman to death at the gates of parliament.
Concerns have been raised that information on how to mount a terror attack is still easily accessible online.
Before the atrocity Google had already been forced to promise it would take a ‘tougher stance’ on hateful content after an outcry and boycotts from advertisers over its content appearing alongside extreme material.
Home Secretary Ms Rudd named and shamed lesser known websites like Telegram, WordPress and Justpaste.it today as she widened the Government’s criticism.
The Home Secretary left the door open to changing the law if necessary.
But she said she would rather see an industry-wide board doing it independently, as the best people to take action are those who understand the technology and the ‘necessary hashtags’.
On encrypted messaging services, she told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide.
‘We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.
‘It used to be that people would steam-open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warrantry.
‘But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.’
Ms Rudd said she was calling in a ‘fairly long list’ of relevant organisations for a meeting on the issue this week, including social media platforms.
Ms Rudd said she was calling in a ‘fairly long list’ of relevant internet organisations for a meeting on the issue of extremism this week
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he found it ‘disgusting’ that net firms were not taking tougher action against extreme literature
‘What these companies have to realise is that they are now publishing companies, they are not technology companies, they are platforms and we need to make sure that that (hosting extremist material) stops,’ she said.
‘You are right, we will not resile from taking action if we need to do so.’
But she went on: ‘I would rather get a situation where we get all these people around the table agreeing to do it.
‘I know it sounds a bit like we’re stepping away from legislation but we’re not.
‘What I’m saying is the best people who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff even being put up, not just taking it down, but stopping it being put up in the first place, are going to be them.’
Mr Johnson called on internet providers and social media companies to develop new technology to detect and remove jihadist and other extreme material.
He accused them of ‘not acting when they are tipped off’, adding in an interview with the Sunday Times: ‘I’m furious about it.
‘They need to stop just making money out of prurient violent material.’
Mr Johnson added: ‘They are not acting when they are tipped off.
Khalid Masood used a hired car to mow down dozens of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before entering the grounds of Parliament and stabbing Pc Keith Palmer to death
‘Evil flourishes when good men do nothing – and that’s what’s happening here.
‘They are putting up adverts next to it.’
The interventions come after Prime Minister Theresa May urged internet companies to do more to prevent terror and hate being spread in cyberspace.
An investigation by the Sunday Mirror uncovered a host of messages encouraging extremist violence exchanged on the encrypted Telegram messaging site.
They included an image of a sword-bearing jihadi fighter standing in front of a burning Big Ben, sent weeks before Wednesday’s terror attack on Parliament.
Another reportedly shared details of how to carry out an atrocity, saying: ‘Methods can include entering the stadium and detonating an explosive(s).
‘Attacking fans/security at full time in the vicinity of the car park area or exits of the stadium.
‘Devices can be left in around the stadium, bars, cars, busses, trains, transportation etc.
‘Attacks can compromise of explosives, gun attacks, knife, martyrdom vests, CHEMICAL and any other.’
Theresa May vowed to show terrorists that ‘we are not afraid’ as she addressed the House of Commons in the wake of the attack