Web firms strengthen filters to counter extremism

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron
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Major internet companies have agreed to beef up filters to ensure children are protected from viewing extremist and terrorist material online, Downing Street has announced.

The four main internet service providers - BT, Virgin, Sky and TalkTalk - have also agreed to host buttons for the public to report extremist material, similar to those used to report child sexual exploitation on the internet.

Meanwhile, Number 10 said that Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter have agreed to support smaller industry players to raise their standards and improve their capacity to deal with material of this kind.

The move came as Prime Minister David Cameron warned that communications giants must live up to their “social responsibility” to protect society from radicalising videos and messages transmitted over the internet.

It follows a warning from GCHQ director Robert Hannigan that tech companies had allowed their services to become the “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorist groups like Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The measures come after talks between the Government and the industry over official concerns that young Britons risk being radicalised by exposure to jihadi material, including videos of IS fighters and depictions of brutal murders and beheadings.

Britain’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has instigated the removal of more than 55,000 pieces of online content, including 34,000 in the last year.

In an average week the unit removes more than 1,000 pieces of content which breach the Terrorism Act - around 800 related to the violence in Syria and Iraq and posted on multiple platforms.

In a speech to the Australian Parliament in Canberra, Mr Cameron said: “A new and pressing challenge is getting extremist material taken down from the internet. There is a role for government in that. We must not allow the internet to be an ungoverned space. But there is a role for companies too.

“In the UK we are pushing companies to do more, including strengthening filters, improving reporting mechanisms and being more proactive in taking down this harmful material.

“We are making progress but there is further to go. This is their social responsibility. And we expect them to live up to it.”