Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Westminster attack 'must be a wake-up call for tech giants', says police chief

The Westminster attack must be a "wake-up call" for technology giants over their efforts to tackle terrorist content online, the acting head of Scotland Yard has warned.

Craig Mackey delivered a stark message to platforms which have come under fire for hosting extremist material, calling on them to grasp what it means to "put your own house in order".

It came as thousands of people linked hands on Westminster Bridge to mark seven days since Khalid Masood's 82-second murderous rampage.

Romanian tourist Andrei Burnaz, who suffered a broken foot in the attack, was pushed in a wheelchair as he placed a single rose on the bridge during the vigil.

His girlfriend Andreea Cristea was knocked from the bridge into the River Thames and remains in hospital in a critical but stable condition.

Facebook, Google and Twitter are among firms that have repeatedly faced calls to do more to detect and remove jihadist and other extreme videos and web pages.

Appearing at the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee, Mr Mackey, the acting commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: "I think these sorts of incidents and the others we've seen in Europe are probably a bit of a wake-up call for the industry in terms of trying to understand what it means to put your own house in order.

"If you are going to have ethical statements and talk about operating in an ethical way it actually has to mean something."

The debate flared up last week after it emerged that information on how to mount an attack was easily accessible online.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attacked firms over a "disgusting" failure to remove extremist material, while Home Secretary Amber Rudd will raise the matter at a meeting with technology bosses on Thursday.

A furore over security services' access to terrorists' communications erupted following reports that Masood's phone connected with encrypted messaging service WhatsApp just before the attack.

Mr Mackey said investigators are examining an "enormous" volume of digital information, including some in "secure applications".

He said: "We work hard with the industry to highlight some of the challenges of these very secure applications.

"It's a challenge when you are dealing with companies that are global by their very nature because they don't always operate under the same legal framework as us."

WhatsApp has said it is "co-operating with law enforcement as they continue their investigations".

On Wednesday, the family of Aysha Frade, one of four people killed, said she will be remembered as "our guardian angel who never shied away from facing up to bullies".

They described the 44-year-old as a "caring daughter, loving sister, amazing wife" and "the best and coolest of mummies".

"You were ripped away from our lives in the cruellest and most cowardly of ways," they said in a statement.

"We now pray that you guide and protect not only us, but all of London, from further evil.

"You will always be remembered as our guardian angel who never shied away from facing up to bullies.

"There are no words to even begin to describe the crushing pain and eternal void left in our hearts."

Police are continuing to question a 30-year-old man in connection with the incident but 10 people have now been released without charge.

Detectives believe Masood acted alone in executing the attack but are continuing to investigate whether anyone else was involved in any way.

In other developments a week on from the atrocity:

:: Mr Mackey revealed that the Met registered a "slight uplift" in Islamophobic incidents on the day after the outrage, but the rise was "far smaller than we've seen in previous events".

:: An inquest for the four victims was opened and adjourned at Westminster Coroner's Court.

:: The family of Miss Cristea said they are "overwhelmed by the love, support and respect" shown for her.

:: It was announced that Pc Keith Palmer will be laid to rest in a full police service funeral next month, while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will join victims' families at a special service.

:: Charlton Athletic unveiled plans to pay tribute to Pc Palmer, who was a season ticket holder. The team will wear black armbands and shirts bearing the police officer's warrant number during their home tie with Milton Keynes Dons on April 4.

Kurt Cochran, 54, Leslie Rhodes, 75, and Aysha Frade died after Muslim convert Masood drove at pedestrians on Westminster Bridge.

The 52-year-old terrorist was shot dead by armed police after fatally knifing Pc Palmer, 48, in the Palace of Westminster's cobbled forecourt.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph