Tech firms face fines for ‘evil’ online extremism

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Facebook, Twitter and YouTube could be slapped with multimillion-pound fines for failing to remove extremist and criminal content under plans by the UK and France.

Online radicalisation will be a top priority during the Prime Minister’s visit to Paris on Tuesday, in which she will hold talks with new President Emmanuel Macron.

Theresa May leaves Number 10 for a meeting with the 1922 committee

Image:This will be Theresa May’s first foreign trip since the bruising general election

As part of new laws to be drawn up by the two leaders, tech giants face being hit with large financial penalties if they allow unacceptable content such as terrorist propaganda.

:: Analysis – Tension between May and Facebook over online extremism

Mrs May’s first foreign trip since losing her majority at the General Election will not be the triumphant outing on the world stage that Downing Street will have envisioned – and she is likely to face ongoing questions publicly and privately about what a hung parliament will mean for Brexit and her leadership.

But ahead of the summit, Mrs May said the joint campaign would “ensure that the internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists and criminals”.

Last month, in the wake of the suicide bomb in Manchester, leaders of the G7 states – the US, UK, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy – agreed a package of measures to step up pressure on firms such as Google and Facebook to take down “harmful” content.

TwitterVideo:Social media ‘failing’ to tackle online hate

Speaking ahead of her visit to Paris, the Prime Minister said: “The counter-terrorism co-operation 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 governments of Britain and France will not just punish firms, but vow to lead joint work with the tech companies to develop tools to identify and remove harmful material automatically.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd will meet her French counterpart in the coming weeks to develop the plans.

A recent report by MPs said the companies were not doing enough to remove extremist content online which may be fuelling hate crimes.

The Home Affairs Select Committee pointed out that in Germany, the justice ministry was drawing up plans to levy fines of up to €50m for firms which did not remove illegal content.

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Tech firms face fines for ‘evil’ online extremism

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