The Daily Telegraph

Google threatened with web terror law

Websites that fail to block extremist videos should face prosecutio­n, ministers declare

- By Christophe­r Hope Chief PolitiCal CorresPond­ent

GOOGLE and Facebook could be prosecuted if they fail to remove extremist videos available to British viewers, under plans being drawn up by the Government.

Ministers are considerin­g a new law which would mean Google – which owns YouTube – and other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter could be prosecuted if they allow such videos to be disseminat­ed.

Yesterday Theresa May warned that internet companies which allowed extremist material to be published must come up with a solution, saying “the ball is in their court”.

But The Daily Telegraph understand­s ministers are privately looking at proposals to place a legal requiremen­t on companies to delete extremist material which could result in fines or prosecutio­n if they fail to comply.

A well-placed source said: “We want to see them take on their responsibi­lity. The problem with the law as it stands is that we can act in the UK, but these are global companies. We need to find a new legal approach.”

Google apologised this week after the growing scandal over extremist videos on YouTube led to a series of companies pulling their advertisem­ents. The internet search giant and other social media sites have an agreement to take down extremist content within 24 hours when they are alerted to it by viewers. But ministers are worried that this still allows videos to be viewed thousands of times before they are removed.

Ministers in the Home Office are now looking at introducin­g a law to force the websites to take down content immediatel­y or face court action.

Officials are trying to work out how the law can be enforced in the UK, given that many films are hosted on foreign websites. The Home Office’s talks with the internet companies are being led by Baroness Shields, a former Facebook executive.

Germany is also considerin­g new laws to force social media platforms and search engines to take a more active role in policing illegal hate speech on their sites.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said yesterday that “social media companies can and must do more”.

“The fight against terrorism and hate speech has to be a joint one. The Government and security services are doing everything they can, and it is clear

that social media companies can and must do more,” the spokesman said. “Social media companies have a responsibi­lity when it comes to making sure this material is not disseminat­ed.

“The ball is now in their court. We will see how they respond.”

Currently, websites are deemed not to have liability for content as long as they remove it swiftly when given notice.

A recent survey in Germany found that Google took down 90 per cent of extremist sites within 24 hours of being notified.

Google stressed it had a good record at deleting extremist content, adding that 98 per cent of flagged videos are reviewed within 24 hours. One source said: “We move content swiftly when it is drawn to our attention.”

Earlier this week, MPs suggested that Google risked breaking anti-terrorism laws by allegedly failing to remove illegal recruitmen­t videos posted on YouTube by the banned far-Right group National Action.

Robert Buckland, the Solicitor-General, said that Google could be breaking the law if it was “reckless” in allowing the material to remain online.

Tim Loughton, a Tory member of the Commons home affairs select committee, which oversees the Home Office’s work on tackling extremism, said a new social media law was needed “as the government action plan is clearly not being taken seriously”.

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