UK Home Secretary Theresa May has declared that Britain's partners in the Five Eyes surveillance alliance should copy Blighty's online counter-terrorism policy – and force service providers to help purge “extremist messages” when they appear on the web.
Along with stepping up their surveillance, intelligence, and information sharing efforts, the Home Secretary, who is currently attending the Five Country Ministerial meeting, stated that the world's terrorist threats meant the allied security services “must act with more urgency and with greater joint resolve than we have before.”
May stated that the seven terrorist plots which the UK had managed to disrupt in the last 18 months were “all either linked to or inspired by Daesh and its propaganda.”
One of her four “key action fronts” was in “stopping the message of hate from spreading”, which involved continuing “to build capabilities at the European Internet Referrals Unit at Europol to secure the removal of terrorist propaganda from the internet.”
“I would like to see the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – Britain’s Five Eyes partners – taking the same approach in working with communications service providers to tackle this propaganda.” said the Home Secretary, who was focused on reducing “the scope for terrorist groups to spew their hate online and to undermine their twisted narratives.”
May explained that the UK works “with internet companies to remove terrorist propaganda online” as part of the nation's counter-terrorism strategy. “However,” she added, “we want to go further than preventing people from becoming terrorists and focus on a broader approach to counter-extremism – both violent and non-violent.”
Her call for more action was accompanied by an argument that “there must be international cooperation, a common approach, free flows of intelligence and information, and the closing of technological gaps which the extremists exploit.”
The Home Secretary was offering her opinions on the strength of the Anglophone surveillance alliance in a speech to the security lobby's think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington DC, ahead of a Five Country Ministerial meeting.
The Five Country Ministerial is an annual meeting between security representatives from each of the Five Eyes' governments. The first meeting was held in Monterey, California, in July 2013 – shortly after the Snowden disclosures brought the Five Eyes surveillance alliance to the public's attention.
It follows years of expansions in the number and breadth of information sharing partnerships involving all five Anglophone countries. Though the modern Five Eyes alliance was a product of a series of agreements focusing on signals intelligence, in particular the UKUSA agreement which emerged from the 1941 Atlantic Charter, the nations now share information on topics from border security through to policing.
Among the newer partnerships is the Five Country Conference, the domain for which was registered by New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The conference is a “consortium of immigration agencies” from the Five Eyes nations. A Privacy Impact Assessment (PDF) declared that a protocol was being established to “securely and confidentially check an agreed volume (initially 3,000 per year) of fingerprint sets of immigration cases against relevant fingerprint databases of the other FCC countries.”
A communiqué issued after last year's ministerial meeting, which was held in London, explained that the discussions covered “issues of security, serious and organised crime and cooperative border management,” as well as the issue of “those travelling to participate in terrorist organisations in Syria and elsewhere; foreign investment in critical infrastructure; online threats; and information sharing.” ®