Social media ‘spreading extremism’, claims Commons committee

Anjem Choudary has been convicted of inviting support for IS  and had 32,000 Twitter followers. Picture: Getty Images
Anjem Choudary has been convicted of inviting support for IS  and had 32,000 Twitter followers. Picture: Getty Images
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Social media giants are “consciously failing” to tackle the use of their sites to promote terrorism, a Commons report claims.

Companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter were accused of “leaving parts of cyberspace “ungoverned and lawless” in a scathing critique.

The internet has a huge impact in individuals turning to extremism, hatred and murder, the Home Affairs Select Committee warned.

Its report said networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “the vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda” and have become “recruiting platforms for terrorism”.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, said social media platforms are “the lifeblood of Daesh” – also known as Islamic State (IS) – and other terrorist groups for recruitment and financing.

He said: “Huge corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter, with their billion-dollar incomes, are consciously failing to tackle this threat and passing the buck by hiding behind their supranational legal status, despite knowing that their sites are being used by the instigators of terror.”

Mr Vaz added: “The companies’ failure to tackle this threat has left some parts of the internet ungoverned, unregulated and lawless.”

It is “alarming” that teams of “a few hundred” employees monitor billions of accounts, while Twitter does not proactively report extremist content to law enforcement agencies, according to the report.

Earlier this year, figures revealed a British police team is removing extremist content at a rate of nearly 300 pieces every day. Last week it emerged that authorities had struggled to get cleric Anjem Choudary’s posts taken down, even after he was arrested for inviting support for IS. Choudary was convicted and is facing jail. His Twitter account, which had amassed 32,000 followers, is no longer visible.

The committee called for companies to publish quarterly statistics showing how many accounts they have taken down. It recommended that a specialist police unit set up to target terror-related material is upgraded to a round-the-clock “central hub”.

Twitter, Facebook and Google all told the committee they took their responsibilities in the area very seriously and co-operated with security agencies. Last week Twitter disclosed it had taken down 235,000 accounts for violating policies related to promotion of terrorism in six months from February.