Digital campaigners have attacked Prime Minister Theresa May for her “risky” and “draconian” outlook on the internet.
Following the attack at London Bridge on Saturday night that left seven people dead and many more injured, May was quick to criticise tech giants for providing terrorists with a safe haven to operate in.
“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed,” May said on Sunday morning during a speech on Downing Street.
“Yet that is precisely what the internet — and the big companies that provide internet-based services — provide.”
She continued: “We need to work with allied, democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorist planning. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online.”
May’s speech was then published on her Facebook page.
Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said in a statement on the organisation’s website: “This could be a very risky approach. If successful, Theresa May could push these vile networks into even darker corners of the web, where they will be even harder to observe.
Killock added: “But we should not be distracted: the Internet and companies like Facebook are not a cause of this hatred and violence, but tools that can be abused. While governments and companies should take sensible measures to stop abuse, attempts to control the Internet is not the simple solution that Theresa May is claiming.”
Meanwhile, political party Pirate Party UK, wrote a blog post titled “Theresa May uses London Bridge attack to further her autocratic agenda.” The post argues that the Conservative party uses each terrorist attack to “prop up their desire to impose even more draconian measures onto our online lives.”
After the attack on Manchester Arena, Tory government ministers were reported to be planning to enforce widespread new powers that would force US tech firms like Apple, Facebook and Whatsapp to remove encryption from messaging services like Facebook and WhatsApp.
“Theresa May’s desire to regulate the internet is a deathly serious threat, and we need to fight back against it with everything we have,” said Mark Chapman, Pirate Party Candidate for Vauxhall. “So much of the economy, culture, communication and infrastructure of the 21st Century is founded on a free and open internet, and it is absolutely crucial that it remain that way.
“Furthermore, regulating the internet will not solve the threat of terrorism. What we need is a well-funded police force with the resources to act on intel from targeted surveillance – not warrantless mass surveillance and the curbing of our human rights and freedoms.
“Regulating the internet is not the answer, and it is shameful that Theresa May is so quick to use the events of a tragedy to fuel her own autocratic agenda.”
Facebook, Google, and Twitter also published responses to May’s speech where they outline the various methods they use to stop extremism spreading on their platforms.