G-7, tech giants to fight online extremism

A juice bottle containing explosives found near the bunker of ISIS militants in a stadium in Raqqa, Syria, on Wednesday.
A juice bottle containing explosives found near the bunker of ISIS militants in a stadium in Raqqa, Syria, on Wednesday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Accord aims to remove content within two hours of posting, say officials

ISCHIA (Italy) • G-7 interior ministers, meeting to discuss ways to tackle one of the West's biggest security threats of militant fighters fleeing Syria, agreed yesterday with tech giants, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, to work together to block the dissemination of Islamist extremism over the Internet.

"These are the first steps towards a great alliance in the name of freedom," Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said after a two-day meeting with his Group of Seven counterparts, stressing the importance of the Internet for extremist "recruitment, training and radicalisation".

Officials said the accord was aimed at removing extremist content from the Web within two hours of it being posted.

"Our enemies are moving at the speed of a tweet and we need to counter them just as quickly," Acting US Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said.

While acknowledging progress had been made, Britain's Home Secretary, Ms Amber Rudd, insisted that "companies need to go further and faster to not only take down extremist content but also stop it being uploaded in the first place".

The meeting of the G-7 countries - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States - came as the European Union promised to help close a migration route considered a potential back door for terrorists.

Tens of thousands of citizens from Western countries travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) between 2014 and last year, including some who then returned home and staged attacks that claimed dozens of lives.

Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti warned last week that fighters planning revenge attacks following the collapse of the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa could hitch lifts back to Europe on migrant boats from Libya.

Mr Minniti warned last week that fighters planning revenge attacks following the collapse of the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa could hitch lifts back to Europe on migrant boats from Libya.

The US and Italy signed an agreement on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting to share their fingerprint databases in a bid to root out potential extremists posing as asylum seekers.

The "technical understanding" aims "to ascertain whether (migrants, asylum seekers or refugees) are noted criminal suspects or terrorists", Mr Minniti's office said.

Earlier, EU President Donald Tusk promised the bloc would fork out more funds to help shut down the perilous crossing from Libya to Italy - a popular path for migrants who hope to journey on to Europe.

Italy has played a major role in training Libya's coastguard to stop human trafficking in its territorial waters, as well as making controversial deals with Libyan militias to stop migrants from setting off.

Mr Minniti said the G-7 ministers had discussed how to go about "de-radicalising" citizens returning from the ISIS frontline, to prevent them from becoming security risks in jails.

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2017, with the headline 'G-7, tech giants to fight online extremism'. Print Edition | Subscribe