If self-regulation has failed, government is right to legislate on extremist content online


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The Henry Jackson Society today welcomed the moves announced by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to work with technology companies to tackle extremist content online.

In April, the Society released Terror in the Dark: How Terrorists Use Encryption, the Darknet and Cryptocurrencies, which identified how the existing powers and regulations available to the UK were unclear.

The report recommended that:

  • If the resources of existing supervisory bodies were insufficient, an external body should be appointed with the role of regulating, scrutinising and auditing the efforts of tech companies to remove extremist and instructional terrorist content.
  • That this body must review the efforts of social media companies to self-regulate, with the potential for fines where companies fail to remove instructional material, fundraising content, or propaganda shared by banned terrorist groups within a set timeframe.
  • That those fines could follow the model of breaches of UK competition law; and that the audit process should include regular annual reports, measuring key metrics on compliance and suggesting areas of improvement.

Terror in the Dark author Nikita Malik, Director of the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at The Henry Jackson Society, said:

“Last month the Henry Jackson Society recommended that tech companies be required to tackle extremist content online and to publish reports detailing their progress. It is extremely welcome that the Culture Secretary has signalled that Ministers are moving in this direction.

“The threat from online extremism is growing. Would-be terrorists recruit, raise funds and spread propaganda on the darknet. Action is needed now to tackle these ungoverned spaces.

“If self-regulation has failed, then government is right to legislate. New laws should include the possibility of fining those companies who consistently fail to remove terrorist training manuals, fundraising material and hate preaching within a certain timeframe.”


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