Home Secretary Amber Rudd today claimed it is “completely unacceptable” for WhatsApp to allow terrorists to “hide” behind its encrypted messaging system.
Appearing on two politics shows this morning, Rudd made it clear she wants WhatsApp and other social media companies to do more to help the Government catch those plotting acts of terror.
Tech company bosses will meet with the Home Secretary this Thursday to discuss what more they can do to stop the proliferation of extremist materials online and also how they can assist security services.
Rudd’s tough talk was slightly undermined by her seemingly weak grasp of how social media platforms operate, claiming she wanted help from people who “understand the necessary hashtags.”
Westminster attacker Khalid Masood used WhatsApp just minutes before ploughing his car into pedestrians in central London, and on The Andrew Marr Show this morning Rudd was asked for her reaction to the fact that communications via the messaging service are encrypted.
She said: “It is completely unacceptable. There should be no place for terrorists to hide.
“We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp - and there are plenty of others like that - don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.”
Despite her criticisms of the companies, Rudd insisted the Government needed to work with them in order to combat terrorism.
She said: “The best people who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff ever being put up, not just taken down, but ever being put up in the first place are going to be them.”
Appearing on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show, Rudd said it was “absurd” that security services were unable to access the messages sent by Masood, and backed a so-called “backdoor” for investigators to be able access encrypted information.
The Home Secretary confirmed tech bosses would be meeting with her on Thursday to create an “industry board” and she said she was “calling time on terrorists using social media as their platform.”
Rudd’s comments come on the same day as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tore into internet firms such as Google for failing to remove jihadist propaganda from their sites.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Johnson said: “I’m furious about it. I think it’s disgusting. They need to stop just making money out of prurient violent material.
“It’s time for the internet providers and the social media companies to accept their social responsibility and to take this stuff off the web.”
He added: “They need to develop new systems and algorithms to detect this stuff and remove it. They are not acting when they are tipped off.”
“Evil flourishes when good men do nothing — and that’s what’s happening here. They are putting up adverts next to it.”