Terror Posts, Encryption Targeted by U.K. Following Attack
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government urged social-media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to tackle terror posts on their sites as it reinforced its demand to allow access to encrypted messages.
“We need to do more and we need to work with them to make sure they help us to do more,” Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in an ITV interview Wednesday.
Following the attack by a suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a Manchester pop concert on Monday, supporters of Islamic State published a number of posts on Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Telegram boasting about the incident. Security services are investigating the possibility that the bomber, who was known to the authorities, was part of a wider network.
“We mustn’t underestimate that ISIS really want to commit these acts and are constantly trying to radicalize people,” Rudd said.
Facebook and Twitter declined to comment. Spokespeople from Telegram could not be reached for comment.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party has taken a hard line against social-media platforms following the revelation that Khalid Masood, who killed five people in London in March, had used WhatsApp shortly before he began his rampage.
Rudd said at the time that Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging system should open its encryption to security services and urged online companies to be more aggressive in shutting down sites exploited by terrorists.
U.K. legislation is set to force companies such as Facebook Inc. and its subsidiary WhatsApp Inc. to allow the U.K. government access to encrypted services upon request.
If approved, lawmakers are keen to apply this obligation to social-media platforms, said one government official speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that the companies have varied in their willingness to deal with government requests.
Tech giants such as Facebook, Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc. have been keen to protect their encryption capabilities. Apple and the U.S. government engaged in a high-profile battle over data privacy and encryption following the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.
The Manchester attack comes just two weeks before a U.K. general election. The Conservatives, predicted to win the vote, have proposed tighter rules for how companies deal with hate speech and illegal content. In May, Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee said Facebook, Google and Twitter were “shamefully far” from effectively managing extremist and hate content.
“We need an international solution and the U.K. is going to take the lead in taking that forward,” Rudd told ITV.
Between July and December last year, Twitter received 681 requests from U.K. law enforcement for user data, relating to 1,017 accounts, according to a report from the company published in March.