Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May welcomes G7 backing for measures to stop online radicalisation

Theresa May has defended her record on tackling violent extremism as she welcomed backing from the world's leading industrial nations for new measures to prevent online radicalisation by Islamic State.

In the wake of the suicide bomb in Manchester, leaders of the G7 states - the US, UK, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy - agreed a package of measures to step up pressure on tech giants like Google and Facebook to take down "harmful" content.

Agreement came at the end of the first day of a summit at the clifftop resort of Taormina in Sicily marked by divisions between US President Donald Trump and other leaders over issues of climate change, free trade and migration.

Mrs May said: "We agreed that the threat from Daesh is evolving rather than disappearing. As they lose ground in Iraq and Syria, foreign fighters are returning and the group's hateful ideology is spreading online.

"Make no mistake, the fight is moving from the battlefield to the internet.

"I am clear that corporations can do more. Indeed they have a social responsibility to now step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks."

The agreement included support for companies to develop tools to identify and remove harmful materials automatically and to report damaging content to the authorities while blocking the users responsible for spreading it.

The G7 also agreed a range of measures to return and prosecute foreign fighters and to cut off sources of terrorist finance.

In the face of questions over whether more could have been done to prevent the Manchester attack, Mrs May defended her record on the issue when she was home secretary under David Cameron.

"I excluded more hate preachers from the UK than any other home secretary has done before. We didn't hesitate in protecting our national security," she said.

In their joint statement, the leaders said they were "united in expressing our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims of the brutal terrorist act in Manchester", adding: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."

Mrs May said the investigation into the Manchester attack was ongoing, but that bomber Salman Abedi's links with Libya "undoubtedly shine a spotlight on this largely ungoverned space on the edge of Europe".

She said: "We must redouble our support for a UN-led effort that brings all parties to the negotiating table and reduces the threat of terror from that region."

Mrs May was cutting short her attendance at the two-day G7 gathering and flying back to the UK at the end of Friday.

Before leaving, Mrs May sought to play down disagreements with Mr Trump on climate change and the international Paris treaty which he had previously said he wanted to scrap.

"The United States is considering its position in relation to these matters and what its policy is going to be," she said.

"But there was no doubt around the table about how important this issue of climate change is. We were all very clear about that and the role the Paris agreement plays in that."

The deputy chief executive of Tech UK, Antony Walker, said: "Tech firms are clear that extremist content has no place on their platforms and are committed to continually improving measures to identify and remove such content.

"The PM's speech highlights the importance of international co-operation and the need to work together - industry, governments and NGOs - to tackle this evolving challenge. That work is already under way.

"As a number of companies set out in a recent letter to the Home Office, they are committed to working through an international forum to accelerate and strengthen existing work, to encourage development of new technologies and processes to improve identification and removal of terrorist propaganda, and to using the reach and diversity of their platforms to promote counter-speech and empower those with inclusive and positive messages."