Internet giants should face a boycott from advertisers if they continue to host vile extremist material online, a report into the 2017 terror attacks says.
Social media and web companies have not made sufficient changes to ‘stop their systems being used as a safe haven for extremists and terrorists,’ according to the Intelligence and Security Committee.
The parliamentary watchdog said appealing to the ‘social responsibility’ of web giants had not worked.
It said the government should lobby business leaders to pull on ‘financial leavers’ by threatening to pull out of advertising in order to get online platforms to listen.
The report said: ‘We strongly consider that action which affects the Communications Service Providers’ profits will hit home harder than an appeal to them to “do the right thing” and could force them to take action on this crucial issue.’
Social media and web companies have not made sufficient changes to ‘stop their systems being used as a safe haven for extremists and terrorists,’ Intelligence committee report found (stock image)
The report described the problem of terrorists using social media as ‘vast’.
Manchester Bomber Salman Abedi reportedly learned how to make explosive devices after watching online tutorials. Extremist material online may also have been a factor in radicalising the attackers at London Bridge and Westminster.
The report acknowledged that – since the problem was first raised four years ago – web giants have started to ‘engage more with this issue’.
But it said that efforts have led to ‘little tangible progress.’
MI5 and counter-terror police are unable to tackle the problem alone, and web giants must take the lead in identifying and removing material from their platforms, it said.
While giving evidence to the committee, the security services said this would enable them to concentrate on investigations rather than ‘spending all of our time effectively being an editor for someone else’s publishing house.’
The report said that more businesses should follow the example of consumer goods giant Unilever.
Salman Abedi (picured) reportedly learned how to make explosive devices after watching online tutorials
In February this year, the firm threatened to boycott Facebook and Google unless they more efficiently policed extremist and illegal content.
In January this year Theresa May told the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos that technology companies still needed to do more to deal with harmful and illegal online activity.
In response, Google, YouTube and Facebook said they would hire more moderators to review material that has been flagged by users as inappropriate.
They are also developing algorithms to detect harmful content automatically.
The report said that the internet and social media boom had dramatically changed how terror content was consumed and distributed.
‘In the past, extremist material was predominantly distributed via leaflets, tape recordings or at meetings,’ the report said.
‘This made it harder for individuals to access or disseminate extremist material without detection whilst the physical element also limited the scale of this activity.
‘Today, the internet allows terrorist and extremist groups to create, post, copy and distribute extremist material, which can be made accessible to over a billion people in a matter of seconds.
‘Crucially, the speed at which material can be created and distributed, and the interactive nature of certain web services and social media platforms, means that the authors are able to interact with their audiences, and discuss current events or recent attacks, for example, in a manner that was not possible previously.’
It was stated that according to 2013 research, searching the internet for ‘how to make a bomb’ returned almost two million results, while ‘beheading video’ brought up 250,000.
The committee agreed that in the past five years, those numbers will have inevitably grown.
Extremist material online may also have been a factor in radicalising the attackers at London Bridge and Westminster. Pictured: The aftermath of the incident in Westminster