Theresa May’s internet clampdown could backfire, warns civil rights group
Internet regulations proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May in response to the London Bridge terrorist attack could backfire by making extremists even harder to track, according to the Open Rights Group (ORG).
In a statement following a meeting of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room, known as COBRA, May said regulations are needed to deny space for extremism.
It comes in the wake of two terrorist attacks in the space of two weeks – in London Bridge on Saturday and in Manchester on May 22 – which followed a deadly assault on Parliament in March.
“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide,” May said.
“We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorism planning,” she added.
Civil rights activists, however, warned such powers could have the opposite effect.
“If successful, Theresa May could push these vile networks into even darker corners of the web, where they will be even harder to observe,” ORG director Jim Killock told the Independent on Monday.
“But we should not be distracted: the internet and companies like Facebook are not a cause of this hatred and violence, but tools that can be abused.
“While governments and companies should take sensible measures to stop abuse, attempts to control the internet is not the simple solution that Theresa May is claiming.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron also hit back at May’s plans, comparing them to those in authoritarian regimes like China and North Korea.
“These issues are not going be solved with political gimmicks or by banning particular technologies,” Farron said in the Guardian.
He accused the PM of “posturing” and said the government should work constructively with tech firms to find solutions.
Theresa May has chosen ineffective mass surveillance over investing in police and local intelligence-gathering https://t.co/48kudVzTZJ— Tim Farron (@timfarron) June 5, 2017
“The alternative is a government that monitors and controls the internet in the way that China or North Korea does.
“If we turn the internet into a tool for censorship and surveillance, the terrorists will have won. We won’t make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free,” he warned.