Social media and tech giants must combat online extremism better

In the past year, Islamic State (IS), formerly ISIS/ISIL, has used social media and encrypted online platforms to recruit terrorists and promote propaganda content and UK officials and tech giants like Google believe the online fight must be taken to them.

There have been too many times where media companies have waited to be approached about combating terrorist content online rather than wait on orders from authorities, says Charles Farr, chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

Officials at Scotland Yard and the Home Office have worked together and stepped up their efforts to take down terrorist propaganda, however they say tech giants like Google, Facebook, and others that run messaging apps should take tougher action.

“Of course some of its propaganda is explicitly violent. We need to counter ISIL propaganda of all kinds,” Mr Farr said.

Jared Cohen, director of Google ideas, said in a speech entitled Waging a Digital Counterinsurgency at Chatham House, Cohen said extremist sites must be shut down when found to be extolling violence.

“What is new is that they're operating without being pushed back in the same internet we all enjoyed,” Cohen said, according to Hacked.

The Metropolitan police counterterrorism internet unit has eliminated more than 110,000 pieces of extremist propaganda since 2010 online, while ISIS produces up to 38 pieces of “high-quality propaganda” each day.

Farr has defended the UK government's controversial ‘Prevent' strategy to combat extremism, as critics claim that such programmes criminalises Muslim communities. Farr stated that 40,00 people came into contact with Prevent programmes in the past year and many were “removed from the terrorist radar”.

Farr said, “In a democratic state no counter-terrorism policy can be 100 percent successful. But there are nearly three million Muslims in Britain of whom about 800 who are of interest to the agencies have travelled to Syria.”

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