MPs attack Google, Twitter and Facebook for 'consciously failing' to address online extremism
Social media giants are “consciously failing” to clamp down on extremists using their platforms to promote terrorism, MPs have said.
The Home Affairs Committee also called on the Government to rebrand the Prevent counter-radicalisation policy in order to end its “toxic” reputation in the Muslim community, as part of a range of measures to win the “war for hearts and minds”.
The MPs pointed the finger at Google, Facebook and Twitter for “passing the buck” on extremist material on the internet.
In a report today on countering radicalisation, the committee said the internet was the “vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda” and that social media sites were “recruiting platforms for terrorism”.
They called for a “state-of-the-art, round-the-clock” rapid response unit to block and take down online material.
To address the threat, the MPs propose that the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) should be upgraded, bringing together different security agencies.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the committee, said the response needed to be a “terrestrial star wars”, a reference to Ronald Reagan’s 1980s missile defence programme.
“It [CTIRU] must include operatives from the Home Office, the security services, the police, internet companies and others,” Mr Vaz said.
“The Government must develop an effective counter-narrative to the slick and effective propaganda machine being run by Daesh.
“We should utilise the brightest talent of the world’s creative industries to counter terrorist propaganda with even more sophisticated anti-radicalising material.”
He argued that the failure of companies to address the problems had “left some parts of the internet ungoverned, unregulated and lawless”.
The Labour MP added: “We are engaged in a war for hearts and minds in the fight against terrorism. The modern front line is the internet. Its forums, message boards and social media platforms are the lifeblood of Daesh and other terrorist groups for their recruitment and financing and the spread of ideology.
“Huge corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter, with their billion dollar incomes, are consciously failing to tackle this threat and passing the buck by hiding behind their supranational legal status, despite knowing that their sites are being used by the instigators of terror.”
Twitter suspended more than 125,000 accounts linked to terrorism between the middle of 2015 and February 2016, the MPs revealed, while Google removed more than 14 million videos in 2014.
Today’s report also contains recommendations on the controversial Prevent strategy, which is designed to identify and address Islamist extremism in communities in the UK.
The existing policy must be “reviewed to produce a new and different inclusive approach”, the MPs said.
They also called for it to be renamed ‘Engage’ to “remove its already toxic associations”.
Among the other recommendations are improvements to the “lamentable” levels of support for families who see relatives travel to join terrorist organisations; a renewed call for media outlets to use “Daesh” rather than “Islamic State”; and that the Government should employ the UK’s “brightest and best” creative talent to come up with anti-radicalism material.