LONDON — UK Prime Minister Theresa May is planning to join forces with French president Emmanuel Macron in her fight against the big tech companies.
The leaders are set to meet in Paris on Tuesday and want firms like Facebook and Google to make it harder for terrorists to exploit their platforms.
No 10. Downing Street said the duo will work together to get the tech giants to remove “extremist material and poisonous propaganda”.
May and Macron will also explore the possibility of creating new laws that could see tech firms punished if they fail to remove certain types of content. Digital campaigners are concerned that this will lead to censorship.
Separately, Germany’s government is trying to push through regulations that would see social media companies fined up to €50 million (£44 million) if they fail to remove unsuitable content.
May said in a statement:
“The counterterrorism cooperation between British and French intelligence agencies is already strong, but President Macron and I agree that more should be done to tackle the terrorist threat online.
“In the UK we are already working with social media companies to halt the spread of extremist material and poisonous propaganda that is warping young minds.
“And today I can announce that the UK and France will work together to encourage corporations to do more and abide by their social responsibility to step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks, including exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content.
“We are united in our total condemnation of terrorism and our commitment to stamp out this evil.”
The pledge to work together comes after a flurry of terror attacks in London and Paris, with the most recent one occurring at London Bridge earlier this month.
In addition to removing extremist content, May and Macron also want tech companies to give intelligence agencies access to private message sent across their platforms by removing encryption.
End-to-end encryption, the term given when only the sender and recipient of messages can decipher them, makes it harder or intelligence agencies to spy on digital communications. In theory, this unbreakable encryption method could be used by terrorists to plot attacks under the radar of the nation’s intelligence services.
“Until now, big Internet companies have refused to give their encryption keys or access to this content, saying that they have told their clients that their communications are protected,” Macron said in April, according to TechCrunch. “This situation is no longer acceptable.”