back to article Facebook, Google, etc: Yeah, yeah, we'll work on the nasty stuff about bombs – but we ain't doing no backdoors

Big Tech has told the UK government it will do more to remove extremist content from their networks, but has refused to offer concessions on encryption. Following a meeting between Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd and communication service providers, called in the aftermath of the murders in Westminster, senior executives …

  1. hplasm

    What were they going to say?

    How many impossible things would you like us to do today?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What were they going to say?

      Tradition is 6.

      Before breakfast.

      Jabberwackys included.

      The Bloody Red Queen should not forget that.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The issue is complicated by the fact

    "...that most of those corporations are based in the United States and so have a strong belief that removing or even blocking content is tantamount to censorship and breaks the First Amendment."

    Placing products beside this content also generates $ and US corporations will sell their grannies to get sales, because making billions is their religion!

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: "The issue is complicated by the fact

      But it still leaves them free to sell all that data to Ad agencies and Ad slingers (other than Google or Facebook)

      Hyprocrites the lot of them.

      But... notice who is missing?

      Yep, that fruity company.

      Has HMG given up on them or are they going to get special treatment/punishment (depending upon your POV)

      We deserve to know don't we?

      1. Roger Varley

        Re: "The issue is complicated by the fact

        Maybe we could actually use the ad-networks for something useful here. Instead of trying to break encryption to find the bad guys, instead look for who is being served ads for Semtex alternatives

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: "that fruity company"

        Remind me exactly which social media thingy Apple is responsible for ?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can't sanitize life

    - Gary the bog cleaner

  4. Ole Juul

    Motion Picture Production Code

    This was a voluntary code which some Catholic convinced Hollywood to follow for 40 years, starting in 1930. Will we see this kind of thing again? It's starting to look like it. I don't expect that standards will go back to having married couples in twin beds again, but the fact that it will likely apply to all public communion is very bad.

    It's also interesting that the Production Code was done "voluntarily" in order to avoid the government stepping in.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Motion Picture Production Code

      Theoretically, online video would fall under the BBFC or similar bodies around the world, but there is simply too much video being generated and going online for it to be properly classified and, if necessary, pulled down.

      There are already strict rules about what is and is not suitable to show as a film in most countries, but the Internet film portals, like YouTube, Clipfish, Vimeo etc. ignore those rules, even in their home countries, and until now, they have gotten away with it...

      To paraphrase Scooby Doo villains everywhere, next year, we will probably see Google saying, "and we would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those dang kids!"

  5. Christoph

    "The issue is complicated by the fact that most of those corporations are based in the United States and so have a strong belief that removing or even blocking content is tantamount to censorship and breaks the First Amendment."

    Except that it does not break the first amendment.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Have an upvote. Very concise and spot on.

    2. phil dude

      not quite correct...

      the "free speech" test for encryption regards protecting the computer language that performs the mathematics required being protected speech.

      See Phil Zimmermann's essay regarding PGP.

      Free speech for political discourse is essentially supported by encryption. Hence, the above article is a good checkpoint to observe, when discussing how governments try and complain about encryption.

      The arguments which emphasized mathematics as a form of free speech (and by extension computer instructions) are much purer in intent and delivery regarding the governments ability to interfere with technology, and have the benefit of being widely discussed in the context of "munitions".

      And of course there's the obligatory.


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An unbelievably huge number of members of Daesh(IS) were/are being recruited via social networks. Censoring these group's network is not actually hard if you know their process. These companies should take responsibility. They should also ban any recruiting ads of state sponsored terrorist groups like Hizbullah, IDF, US army etc.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Censoring these group's network is not actually hard if you know their process."

      That's legislator's thinking.

      Do you want to know what really happens if you do that? If so, read the following very carefully.

      They will change their processes.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        They will change their processes.

        Anything which makes their processes less effective could be called an improvement in the situation.

        Katie Hopkins' radicalising influence would be greatly reduced if she were not given her platform of being a columnist in the Daily Mail.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      The problem with censorship

      Is that, like Pringles, once you pop, it's very hard to stop.

      I think most people would agree that taking down the sites of terrorist organisations such as ISIS would be a good thing, but defining what is and is not a terrorist organisation is a tricky business.

      It would start off being Daesh / ISIS, would get expanded to Hezbollah, the 'Real' IRA, then quasi-political organisations such as Combat 18, Britain First, then minor political parties, then end up encompassing any political opposition to the ruling party. We'd end being a 'democratic' totalitarian state such as North Korea. Theresa May would love this sort of thing.

      For this reason, defining terrorism should never be put in the hands of politicians; it's like giving a psychopath a gun and telling him not to shoot anyone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The problem with censorship

        "We'd end being a 'democratic' totalitarian state..."

        Grow some. Stand up to governments which we elect; allow them to go only as far as we will allow them to go. It is your duty to ensure they work for us. If you think you are powerless - then you are and become part of the problem.

  7. Polardog

    If you can only get the right hashtags, it's easy then. Duh!

    1. Eddy Ito
  8. wolfetone Silver badge

    Wouldn't it be easier for the authorities to have these guys on the internet though? Because otherwise you'd be driving them underground without technology to help detect them?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That would be my thoughts too. I'd spend my money on a taking-the-piss campaign and possibly have a word with the daily mail to stop giving them so much fucking publicity of the non-sarcastic kind.

  9. CharlieM
    Black Helicopters

    Things like this should make you worry

    This constant push to ban the public using encryption is worrying. They truly don't understand that no matter what you think Whatsapp & Co should be doing with crypto keys, there's nothing to stop the only people they claim to want to be spying on using crypto. It's not like the threat of a couple of extra years in prison is going to stop them.

    Any Computer Science graduate (and plenty of others too) could knock up a way of encrypting messages pasted into Whatsapp, Facebook or any other chat app in an afternoon. Sure it won't have Emojis but it will be just as unbreakable as what Whatsapp & Co are doing at the moment.

    So either:

    a, our politicians really are too stupid to listen and comprehend.

    b, there's another agenda at play which requires mass surveillance.

    None of the above is exactly encouraging!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm puzzled with the notion that they should prevent uploads of "terrorist videos" in the first place. How would that work? Given the sheer volume, Google, for instance, would have to hire so many employees that they would easily eclipse the largest employer on the planet, Wal-Mart. [Ignoring governments.] Or is there some magical, mystical AI just invented now that can sort the content that I've not heard the likes of? Inquiring minds want to know!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Puzzled

      Indeed. It wouldn't work, and that's the problem for Google et al. An AI based system won't work. Talking about them might wow the general public, but the legislators are looking for something concrete, something certain.

      The only realistic way they can cut down on the amount of illegal material on their services is to make it so that there is real consequences (i.e. jail time) for the users putting it up their in the first place. There has to be a deterrent strong enough to make users think twice about what they're doing.

      That can only happen if Google, Facebook, Twitter, can prove the user's identity robustly in court. Banking details associated with payment for services rendered is good enough. Trouble is their freetard business model practically guarantees that they have no idea who any user actually is (unless they mysteriously typed in all their details). WhatsApp of course already do know user identity quite well. It's the reason Suckerberg paid $20billion for it. The app uses the mobile's phone number. WhatsApp just choose to conceal it from any enquiring policeman.

      Their rather tame response from the tech companies to this meeting speaks volumes. Their legal advisers must surely be telling them that EU countries and the UK can easily (and probably will) pass a law banning undiscoverable user identity, or one prohibiting communications services that cannot be tapped or traced, etc. And they can probably pass such a law with strong public support too, especially at the moment. Newspaper headlines like "Google, the Terrorists Friend" really do have an effect.

      It's looking like a lot of American companies are seriously underestimating just how much faith Europeans generally have in their governments (NOTE - not their politicians, that's a different thing altogether) and police forces when it comes to such matters.

      OK, so European governments cannot easily physically stop the companies offering services to EU citizens from servers outside the EU (for example, there's no Great Firewall of Britain). But they can stop the flow of advertising revenue to Google, Facebook, etc, and make it a criminal offence to offer such services. That would put a serious and hard to explain dent in their revenue, and threaten the liberty of their senior management, etc.

      Anyway, such a course of action would be sending a strong message. If they don't understand their social responsibilities, perhaps the tech companies can be made to understand the financial consequences of their stance.

      Consequences for the USA

      Ok, so say European countries do start clamping down on the companies, what does that mean in the USA?

      Take WhatsApp, who currently undertake to conceal user communications no matter what. Say they cave in, and change WhatsApp in Europe so that a lawful request for data (e.g. "who was that they were talking to?") could be fulfilled.

      So what are their terms and conditions going to look like then? One set for the USA, a different set for everywhere else? That's not going to work. Suppose the person identified in responding to a warrant was American???

      The consequence is likely to be that the USA could become somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. There'd be WhatsApp USA (a freetard's paradise where no one knows who is speaking to who), and WhatsApp Global (in effect another legally registered communication service provider that will respond to warrant-backed requests for data just like any other telco), but you wouldn't be able to make a call between the two flavours of WhatsApp. Similarly for Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.

      Also such developments in Europe could spur changes to the equivalent laws in the USA. Phone taps / traces are a legally sanctioned / controlled thing in the US - some legislators might start wondering about applying them to an OTT communications provider like WhatsApp, as per Europe?

  11. Ben Boyle

    It's simples

    Add a question when people create accounts... "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a terrorist organization?" and if they pick "yes" ten don't let them have an account so then they can't communicate.

    Job done, now off to the pub for a pint.

    1. Aspie73

      Re: It's simples

      It always make me giggle when answering

      "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a terrorist organization?"

      on the SC form I have to complete periodically in order to have access to weapons with which to instruct cadets how to shoot.

  12. JCDenton

    Preventing terrorist organizations from uploading content sounds like a good idea, until you realize how small of a leap it takes from "terrorist organization" to any organization that opposes the government. A group fighting for human rights in a country with almost none, can be classified as a "terrorist organization" by the government. Their videos and writings would be considered extreme by that government. They are fighting for you rights, which is good, but that opposes the government, so they get labelled and blocked.

    Remember that the founding fathers of America were a bunch of rebels when they started. Look at what they created. In the eyes of history they are good guys, at the time they were enemies of the Crown.

  13. PacketPusher

    Another way.

    Censorship or surveillance? Maybe instead of shutting down hate content, we should leave it and note who posts on it and investigate them. These hate sites could become a honey pot we use to detect terrorists before they can cause problems.

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