Internet companies have agreed to do more to tackle extremist material online following negotiations led by Downing Street.
The UK’s major Internet service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk – have this week committed to host a public reporting button for terrorist material online, similar to the reporting button which allows the public to report child sexual exploitation.
They have also agreed to ensure that terrorist and extremist material is captured by their filters to prevent children and young people coming across radicalising material.
The UK is the only country in the world with a Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CITRU) - a 24/7 law enforcement unit, based in the Met, dedicated to identifying and taking down extreme graphic material as well as material that glorifies, incites and radicalises.
In the last four years the CTIRU has instigated the removal of over 55,000 pieces of on line content, including 34,000 pieces since December 2013.
In an average week the unit is removing over 1,000 pieces of content that breaches the Terrorism Act 2006. Approximately 800 of these are Syria/Iraq related and posted on multiple platforms.
Speaking to an audience that included Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, Cameron said that he was pushing UK companies to do more “including strengthening filters, improving reporting mechanisms and being more proactive” in taking down harmful material.
He warned that the internet must not become an ungoverned space. “We are making progress but there is further to go. This is their social responsibility. And we expect them to live up to it,” the prime minister added.
In addition, Number 10 said that Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter will support smaller industry players to raise their standards and improve their capacity to deal with this material.
The developments follows a meeting between internet companies and Jo Johnson, the cabinet office minister, in the past fortnight.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said “we will keep pressing internet companies to be more proactive given the scale of the threats and the persistent propaganda from the terrorist groups”.
The prime minister was speaking after Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ, recently described some of the technology companies as the new command and control centres of terrorism. He said they had become in the post Snowden era positively obstructive in failing to comply with government requests to take material down.
The UK prime minister said in Canberra that action was necessary because: “In both our countries we have seen some of our young people radicalised, going off to fight in Iraq and Syria, and even appalling plots to murder innocent people. There is no opt-out from dealing with this. We have to confront this threat at its source.”
This article was written by Patrick Wintour in Canberra, for theguardian.com on Friday 14th November 2014 03.17 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010