Social media platforms must take greater responsibility on extremism, MPs say

The Home Affairs Select Committee has called on social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to show a greater sense of responsibility in targeting groups which are using their services to promote extremism.

In a report, the Committee criticised the platforms for failing to take its role in combating online extremism seriously enough.

The report said: "Networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda and they have become the recruiting platforms for terrorism.

"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."

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Committee, claimed the firms were ‘hiding behind’ supranational legal statuses and should publish more details about exactly how much material they are removing, and how quickly.

The news comes after the recent trial of radical cleric Anjem Choudhry. During the trial, it emerged that police has asked social media companies to remove certain content or accounts which were linked to him, however, not all the requests were acted upon.

In an interview with the BBC, Simon Milner, director of policy for Facebook UK, said: “Terrorists and the support of terrorist activity are not allowed on Facebook and we deal swiftly and robustly with reports of terrorism-related content.

"In the rare instances that we identify accounts or material as terrorist, we'll also look for and remove relevant associated accounts and content."

A spokesman for YouTube argued: "We take our role in combating the spread of extremist material very seriously. We remove content that incites violence, terminate accounts run by terrorist organisations, and respond to legal requests to remove content that breaks UK law.

"We'll continue to work with government and law enforcement authorities to explore what more can be done to tackle radicalisation."

Meanwhile, Professor Peter Neumann, from Kings College London, an expert on radicalisation, said: “Social media companies are doing a lot more now than they used to - no doubt because of public pressure. That said, the vast majority of ISIS recruits that have gone to Syria from Britain and other European countries have been recruited via peer to peer interaction, not through the internet alone.

"Blaming Facebook, Google or Twitter for this phenomenon is quite simplistic, and I'd even say misleading."