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UK MPs say Twitter, Google not doing enough to curb extremism

world Updated: Aug 26, 2016 01:10 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

Image of Siddhartha Dhar alias Abu Rumaysah, who was born in an Indian-origin Hindu family of London and joined the Islamic State after converting to Islam.(Twitter)

Internet giants such as Twitter and Google have removed hundreds of thousands of accounts linked to extremists in recent years, but an influential committee of British parliament says they are “consciously failing” to tackle extremism on the web.

In a scathing report, the Home Affairs Committee said on Thursday that between mid-2015 and February 2016, Twitter had suspended more than 125,000 accounts globally, and Google removed more than 14 million videos, but “these are in reality a drop in the ocean”. 

"They must accept that the hundreds of millions in revenues generated from billions of people using their products needs to be accompanied by a greater sense of responsibility and ownership for the impact that extremist material on their sites is having," the report said.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: "We are engaged in a war for hearts and minds in the fight against terrorism. The modern front line is the internet. Its forums, message boards and social media platforms are the lifeblood of Daesh and other terrorist groups for their recruitment and financing and the spread of ideology.” 

He added, “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.”

Vaz said even when someone is convicted, such as hate preacher Anjem Choudary, who was found guilty of supporting the Islamic State, their videos and hateful speeches continue to influence people through these websites. “The companies' failure to tackle this threat has left some parts of the internet ungoverned, unregulated and lawless,” he said.

The report titled ”Radicalisation: the counter-narrative and identifying the tipping point” makes several recommendations, including upgrading Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, against the backdrop of estimates that 800 UK-linked fighters travelled to Iraq, and 50% of them had returned.

“The Committee was appalled to hear from Assistant Commissioner (Mark) Rowley, the UK counter-terrorism police lead, about the apparent ease with which Siddhartha Dhar and others arrested for terrorism offences could breach bail conditions and flee the country, despite being asked to hand in their passports,” it said.

Dhar, who was born and raised in an Indian-origin Hindu family in the UK, is also known as Abu Rumaysah and is believed to have appeared in several IS videos. He disappeared in September 2014, shortly after he was released on bail following his arrest on charges of encouraging terrorism. Soon after, he surfaced in Syria