Theresa May tells tech giants to remove harmful web content

A Swiss armed security guard on duty in Davos, where Theresa May is due to give a speech. Picture: AFP/Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images

Theresa May will use an appearance at the Davos business summit today to demand that tech firms automatically remove content that promotes extremism and spreads child abuse.

In a speech to the World Economic Forum at the exclusive Swiss mountain resort, the Prime Minister will call on financial investors to demand greater action from web giants in the fight against terrorism online.

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Mrs May will praise the transformational role of technology, but warn companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter that they risk losing public support unless they take on greater social responsibility and address the impact of their own services.

“Technology companies still need to go further in stepping up to their responsibilities for dealing with harmful and illegal online activity,” the Prime Minister is expected to say.

“These companies simply cannot stand by while their platforms are used to facilitate child abuse, modern slavery or the spreading of terrorist and extremist content.”

Research published earlier this week found that 70 per cent of the public agree that social media companies don’t do enough to stop illegal or unethical behaviour.

The Edelman Trust Barometer also found that nearly a third of those questioned disagree with the statement that social media is a force for good in society.

Calling on companies to go further, she will add: “These companies have some of the best brains in the world. They must focus their brightest and best on meeting these fundamental social responsibilities.

“Investors can play a vital role by considering the social impact of the companies they are investing in. They can use their influence to ensure these issues are taken seriously.”

The Prime Minister will also chair a round table meeting of tech firms to promote the UK as a world leader in tech and a future hub for artificial intelligence.

Mrs May will announce that the UK is joining the Forum’s new artificial intelligence council to help shape governance of a fast-developing economic sector. On the fringes of the conference, the Prime Minister is expected to meet US President Donald Trump to discuss foreign policy issues.

In her speech at Davos last year, Mrs May warned world leaders that they had to adapt globalisation to address the concerns of ordinary people, or risk losing elections to the far left and far right.

Yesterday the former Prime Minister David Cameron was filmed at Davos telling business leaders that Brexit was “a mistake, not a disaster.” Mrs May’s predecessor told steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal: “It’s turned out less badly than we thought.”