Met Anti-Terror Chief Slams “Unhelpful” Social Media Companies

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Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley claims social media giants aren’t doing enough to help police with the fight against terrorism

One of the UK’s top anti-terror police officers has struck out at social media giants such as Facebook for not doing enough to help police combat the threat from terrorism.

Mark Rowley, the Met’s Assistant Commissioner, said that social media companies are causing a “growing number of blind spots”, according to the Press Association.  He said data relating to terror threats is patchy because of encrypted communications and unwillingness from social media companies to cooperate with the police.

Fragmented

“Our experience of social media and communications companies is of a very fragmented and highly variable level of cooperation, ranging from some who are very cooperative, those who are partially cooperative and those who are at the other end of the spectrum,” Rowley said in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute.

These digital blindspots are making it “much more difficult” to foil terror plots, he said. Rowley claimed that social media is an “immature business sector”.

“In the real world, if someone was to open a shopping centre in London with a fantastic new business model which made them large amounts of profit but also provided a safe operating environment for criminals or terrorists we wouldn’t allow it,” he said.

“Yet to some degree that is what is going on in the virtual world.”

In May, the Conservative government ushered in a revised Communications Data bill, dubbed the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, which gives Britain’s security services more powers to tackle the online communications of terrorists.

social media
GCHQ

The bill maintains the current abilities of authorities to “target” online communications of “terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals”. It will also modernise outdated laws to ensure it is “fit for purpose”, and finally ensure there is “appropriate oversight” and safeguards for how the powers are used.

But the bill was met with controversy by some human rights campaigners.

The Open Rights Group said: “This is the fifth time a Government has tried to bring in the Snoopers’ Charter,” it said. “The Home Office wants to give the police and intelligence services even more powers to look at what we do and who we talk to.”

“Do we really want to live in a country where the police tries to access all of our texts and WhatsApp messages to our loved ones, the emails from our friends, the Facebook messages we’ve sent and the Snapchat photos our friends send us?” the group said.

And it warned that the government may use this new bill to tackle encryption technology, an issue that David Cameron has been seeking to address for some time now.

“We think the police and intelligence services should target people suspected of crimes instead of collecting everyone’s data, all of the time,” said the group.

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