The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, is urging for new cyberspace rules to be introduced, aimed at depriving the “extremists of their safe spaces online.” May claims technology companies are not currently doing enough to regulate the internet.
The Prime Minister made the comments as she addressed the media outside Downing Street on the morning after the (1) terror atrocity on London Bridge. Seven people were killed and 48 injured when a van drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and Borough Market and three men set about stabbing innocent victims.
May Wants Internet Surveillance
In her address to the public, Theresa May said greater internet surveillance is required to counter extremist and terrorist planning.
“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,” said May.
“We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning.”
In the same speech, May condemned Britain for being “too tolerant of extremism”. The Prime Minister said that although the three recent terror attacks in the UK were not linked by “common networks”, they are connected by “the single evil ideology of Islamic extremism.”
This was the first time Theresa May has publicly called for international cooperation on internet regulation.
It’s no secret that the Conservative party plan to regulate the internet by bringing in tighter controls to Google and social media. If elected in this week’s general election, the Tories will have a mandate from the public to end the unregulated freedom of the internet we have grown used to.
Regulating the Internet
The Conservatives’ manifesto reads:
“Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes technology and the internet. We disagree.”
May’s party believe it is time to end the internet being treated as an “anarchic free-for-all.”
Talking to (3) BuzzFeedNews, Tory aides confirmed that a future Tory government would be keen to curb the growing power of the likes of Facebook and Google. Both Facebook and Google have the information flow monopoly of the internet. The two internet giants are keen to resist regulation, as revealed in the wake of the terrorist attack outside Westminster in March this year, when the UK home secretary Amber Rudd called for the level of encryption on the messaging service WhatsApp to be watered down.
During a television interview, Rudd accused WhatsApp as providing a “secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.” The home secretary made demands for the Facebook-owned WhatsApp to make it easier for intelligence to spy on conversations.
Similar to many other messaging services, WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, meaning messages can only be viewed by the sender and the receiver. Even WhatsApp is incapable of intercepting its messages.
The police however currently have the power to demand people to unlock their phones and in such situations, could view such encrypted messages. Intelligence agencies have similar powers, as they can hack the phone of surveillance targets.
The regulation of the freedoms of the internet and digital methods of communication has sparked a wave of critique and disproval.
Calls for Censorship
Tim Cook, head of Apple, which does not have any direct ties with WhatsApp, criticised Rudd’s calls for the messaging censorship. Cook defended the right for people’s privacy when using Apple’s iMessage app, which also uses end-to-end encryption to keep users’ messages private.
Calls for tighter regulation by the Conservative Party in Britain follow the introduction of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, aka the ‘Snooper’s Charter’. The Act legalised a range of tools for snooping and security services hacking. The bill was passed in parliament by barely a whimper.
The Act was passed in 2016 and is hailed as giving intelligence agencies the “most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world.” It gives UK intelligence agencies snooping powers unrivalled by any other country in western Europe and even the United States.
(4) US whistle-blower Edward Snowden was quick to condemn the passing of the Act, (5) tweeting:
“The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”
The ‘Snooper’s Charter’ was championed by Theresa May. It requires internet service providers to preserve a list of the websites internet users visit for a year. The Act also gives intelligence agencies greater powers to intercept online communications. Furthermore, police have the power to access individuals’ browsing history without a court order or warrant.
Theresa May is now intent on taking internet censorship even further by setting up international agreements with foreign allies to collectively regulate online activity and stamp out internet freedom as we know it.