Facebook, Twitter and Google are to blame for terrorism, say MPs

Committee says press should uncritically repeat what government tells it to say

A UK parliamentary committee has claimed that Facebook, Twitter and Google are responsible for terrorist attacks in the West by “consciously failing to combat the use of their sites to promote terrorism and killings.”

The claim comes after a year-long inquiry into the UK's efforts into “countering extremism”. The Home Affairs Select Committee today reported its findings in a 51-page publication titled Radicalisation: The Counter-Narrative and Identifying the Tipping Point.

The committee, which had announced its inquiry last year, today primarily placed the blame for young Muslims being “radicalised” on those operating social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

This blame was apportioned despite the committee also acknowledging that witnesses it had summoned agreed “that there does not appear to be any clear template for the factors which might lead to radicalisation.”

Regardless of the lack of a scientific standard for measuring this phenomenon of “radicalisation”, the use of counter-narratives is an increasingly popular and openly propagandistic method of addressing the violence of terrorist organisations, and one which the committee encouraged more of.

As the committee's chairman, Keith Vaz MP, chose to phrase it: “The Government must develop an effective counter-narrative to the slick and effective propaganda machine being run by Daesh. We should utilise the brightest talent of the world’s creative industries to counter terrorist propaganda with even more sophisticated anti-radicalising material. In the face of this new threat, we need a terrestrial Star Wars.”

While reporting how impossible it was for Home Office officials to even find a definition of “extremist” which would not “immediately be challenged in court,” its recommendations fall short of suggesting a more thorough examination of the lexicon of the counter-terrorist strategy to refer to discrete and measurable objects and phenomena.

Vaz also recommended that the press be responsible for promoting “counter-narratives”, and in particular “should refrain from using the term ‘so-called Islamic State’, and should instead refer to ‘Daesh’. We also recommend that they do not identify terrorists as Muslims, but as terrorists and followers of Daesh.”

This idea of saturating the public sphere with information contrary to that of a public enemy was supported with the committee's warning: “Cyber-war, the use of the internet to promote radicalisation and terrorism, is one of the greatest threats that countries including the UK face.”

In response to this, it recommended that the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) be upgraded “into a high-tech, state-of-the-art, round-the-clock, central Operational Hub which locates the perils early, moves quickly to block them and is able to instantly share the sensitive information with other security agencies.”

CTIRU was founded in 2010 to issue notices under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006, although according to a written answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach in 2013, while the cops “can compel ISPs or social network sites to remove illegal extremist and radicalising material” in actuality these sites “co-operate willingly and CTIRU have never served any ISPs with a formal notice and take-down request under Section three of Terrorism Act 2006.”

It is supported on a supranational level by the EU Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) to which the UK second staff. The EU unit was established in July 2015, and in its first 16 weeks made over 500 referrals, of which 90 per cent were successfully removed, although

Since being founded, the committee reported that CTIRU has “secured the removal of more than 120,000 pieces of terrorist-related content” including “action to suspend the accounts of those propagating terrorist or extremist views and taking down of websites promoting this type of content. Removal requests average 1,000 a week, of which around 100 items per day contain Syria-related content.”

Other recommendations included rebranding the government's controversial and "toxic" 'Prevent' strategy to 'Engage', for the sake of including the Muslim community.

Vaz continued:

We should utilise the brightest talent of the world’s creative industries to counter terrorist propaganda with even more sophisticated anti-radicalising material. In the face of this new threat, we need a terrestrial star wars.

He added: “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.”

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.

“We believe that young people’s lack of ability or awareness of the need to critically challenge their beliefs is also central to the problems we have found,” the committee also reported.

The Register's analysis of the the committee's ability or awareness of the need to critically engage with this topic will follow shortly. ®

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