Theresa May: Tech giants must take down extremist content within two hours

Theresa May united nations

UK PM Theresa May will urge tech giants to go “further and faster” to stop the spread of online terrorist material – including the development of new technologies to stop it appearing online in the first instance.

In her speech at the UN General Assembly in New York later today, May will welcome the progress being made by some of the world’s biggest tech companies but will note these could do more to combat the emergence and spread of terrorist content.

May will say she wants technology companies to “to develop new technological solutions to prevent such content being uploaded in the first place”.

Alongside counterparts from France and Italy, May will highlight that if terrorist content does emerge, she would like technology companies to remove it within one to two hours.

May will go on to note that material posted by Daesh is still available on the internet for ‘too long’ after being posted online. Additionally, the PM will warn that as firms look to remove content more quickly, terrorist groups will adapt to this, and technology companies should do the same.

May will say: “Terrorist groups are aware that links to their propaganda are being removed more quickly, and are placing a greater emphasis on disseminating content at speed in order to stay ahead.

“Industry needs to go further and faster in automating the detection and removal of terrorist content online, and developing technological solutions which prevent it being uploaded in the first place.

“Internet companies are already making progress towards the automatic identification of terrorist content.”

The PM’s comments come after Google and YouTube said they were ramping up their efforts to automatically identify extremist videos.

Twitter has said it deactivated 299,649 accounts between Jan 1 and June 30 and Facebook is looking to develop AI to automate the identification of terrorist material posted on its platform. Google has pledged £1m to fund projects seeking to improve the way in which online extremist content is removed.

May will also ask other world leaders to join her efforts. “We need a fundamental shift in the scale and nature of our response – both from industry and governments – if we are to match the evolving nature of terrorists’ use of the internet.

“I call on others to join the UK, France, and Italy in pledging their support for this approach.

“This is a global problem that transcends national interests. Governments must work with and support the efforts of industry and civil society if we are to achieve real and continuing progress and prevent the spread of extremism and terrorist use of cyberspace.

“In order to succeed, we must be united in our determination to fight terrorist exploitation of the internet.”

The news comes after May pressured tech giants at a G7 summit in Italy earlier this year, following a string of terrorist attacks in London, Manchester and other cities across the world.