Theresa May has warned that the threat from the Islamic State terror group is moving “from the battlefield to the internet”, as leaders of the world’s leading industrial states issued a joint demand for tech giants to take down terrorist content.
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 the fight against terror.
And they backed Mrs May’s call for more pressure to be put on internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to target extremist messages online, including by developing technology which automatically identifies and removes messages that incite violence.
In a press conference at the end of the first day of the G7 summit in Taormina, Italy, Mrs May said: “We agreed that the threat from Daesh is evolving rather than disappearing. As they lose ground in Iraq and Syria, foreign fighters are returning and the group’s hateful ideology is spreading online.
“Make no mistake, the fight is moving from the battlefield to the internet.
“In the UK, we are already working with social media companies to halt the spread of extremist material and hateful propaganda that is warping young minds.
“I am clear that corporations can do more. Indeed they have a social responsibility to now step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks.”
The Prime Minister added: “We want companies to develop tools to identify and remove harmful materials automatically and, in particular, I want to see them report this vile content to the authorities and block the users who spread it.”
The G7 agreed a range of measures to tackle terrorism, including action to return and prosecute foreign fighters and to cut off sources of terrorist finance.
In their joint statement, the leaders said they were “united in expressing our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims of the brutal terrorist act in Manchester”, adding: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”
Mrs May said the investigation into the Manchester attack was ongoing, but that bomber Salman Abedi’s links with Libya “undoubtedly shine a spotlight on this largely ungoverned space on the edge of Europe”.
She said: “We must redouble our support for a UN-led effort that brings all parties to the negotiating table and reduces the threat of terror from that region.”