British Home Affairs Select Committee Blast Social Media

The British Home Affairs select committee, which consists of a panel of British members of parliament, have written a damning report stating that social networks are "consciously" failing to tackle Islamic State online material. The committee's core claim is that instead of stopping or preventing the recruitment activity of terrorists, the world's social networks are instead claiming that this is not their jurisdiction. The select committee used language such as how this policy (or lack of policies) would "damage their brands" and how the social networking websites are "the Wild West" of the Internet because of this apparent failure on their part. The committee go on to claim that the bigger social media websites are able to hide behind "their supranational legal status" even though the companies know that their websites are being used by "the instigators of terror". All of this follows a number of terrorist attacks in Europe and included references to Anjem Choudary, who earlier in the week was convicted of supporting the Islamic State. In his trial it was shown that the UK authorities had requested social media sites remove Anjem's content but not all requests were honoured. The document aligns itself with the German authorities' request that Facebook deals with authority requests to remove accounts "immediately." Another request is that the social media websites publish quarterly dossiers detailing how many websites or accounts have been banned.

A number of social media websites met with the select committee earlier in the year and explained that they only have teams of a few hundred employees to monitor the billions of accounts and websites. Twitter does not proactively report extremist content to police and other law enforcement agencies. The report concluded that social media had become "the vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda and the recruiting platforms for terrorism," neatly ignoring the threat these business leaders face. The social media companies operate policies in place that allow either users or the authorities to flag or report terrorist activity and content. Twitter reported that it had suspended 365,000 accounts linked to terrorism in the year to date and Facebook state that as soon as terrorist content is reported, their team remove it as quickly as possible. Despite this activity from the social media companies, extremism and terrorist content remains a problem for social media - and has resulted in lawsuits across the world.

Some of the detailing in the Home Affairs committee is interesting, including how it recommends that the specialist online anti-terrorism police unit is moved to operate around the clock. The UK's gov.uk website is of course open all day, every day, but it does not detail when the underlying police unit is manned. Social media websites do not open at nine o'clock, pause for afternoon tea at three, and close at five o'clock, so it seems ludicrous that a specialist police unit designed to counter extremism and terrorist content does not operate along similar lines as to the underlying service. It is also ironic that the select committee are pointing a finger and blaming social media for not dealing with the issue and how the report, and its recommendations are also likely to be spread around the world by the very same websites that spread extremist propaganda.

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David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.