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Crime Crime

Work to prevent terrorists from having a safe space to communicate online

Last updated: 09:16am 30 January 2019

In addition, we do not believe that there should be a safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online and will work to prevent them from having this capability.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.79

Our verdict

The ongoing threat from terrorist activity was highlighted by several events in the UK in 2017. Many of the battles to prevent these types of atrocities have to take place online. The government has pointed out:

“developments in technology, which provide the means for terrorists to operate undetected, together with the global reach to inspire their atrocities”

This policy is part of a commitment to make the UK the “safest place to be online”, and a promise to work to prevent terrorists from finding safe spaces to communicate online.

Note that the promise is to “work to” prevent terrorists being able to communicate online – it’s not a pledge to prevent it “completely”. So the work is what we’re tracking.

In June 2018, the government published its updated Strategy for Countering Terrorism (CONTEST)  which broadly outlines initiatives to tackle terrorist activity both online and offline using a four-strand approach:

  • Prevent
  • Pursue
  • Protect
  • Prepare

CONTEST emphasises the importance of preventing terrorists from communicating freely online, and the government is actively involved in developing technology to achieve that.

A further significant step has been the introduction of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 2018, which aims to:

“update, and close gaps in existing counter-terrorism legislation to ensure that it is fit for the digital age and reflects contemporary patterns of radicalisation”

The bill addresses areas such as expressing support for terrorist groups, publishing banned or illegal material, encouraging terrorism or sharing terrorist propaganda. It is currently awaiting Royal Assent.

In response to a green paper consultation on internet safety, in May 2018 the government said:

“DCMS and Home Office will jointly work on a White Paper which will set out our proposals for future legislation [on online harms and safety]”

Taken collectively, these actions are evidence of government working to prevent terrorists from communicating safely online, so we’re marking this one as ‘done’. There’s a lot going on, so follow this policy for updates.

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