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Extremists use internet to terrify and radicalise, warns Cressida Dick

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Britain is facing a “new age of terrorism threat” with extremists using the internet to terrify and radicalise people, Dame Cressida Dick has warned as she called for renewed efforts to fight the dangers posed by Islamists and the far-Right.

The Met Commissioner said the “borderless and unregulated spaces” online were to blame for creating new risks to the public as she lashed out over the failure of tech companies to do more to help law enforcers.

She highlighted the use of end-to-end encryption on social media platforms as one of the problems and added that the dangers were becoming more “complex” to counter. She also warned over the increasing radicalisation of children online and the use of the internet by far-Right extremists to form “splinter groups” in an attempt to avoid detection.

Dame Cressida’s warnings — which follow the announcement last week of a two-year extension to her contract as Met Commissioner — came during an address to the 20th Annual World Summit on Counter Terrorism. She said that police and intelligence agencies had achieved significant success through international co-operation since the September 11, 2001 attacks but that new efforts were now needed as the threat to the public evolved.

The Met Commissioner said the “borderless and unregulated spaces” online were to blame for creating new risks to the public (PA Archive)
The Met Commissioner said the “borderless and unregulated spaces” online were to blame for creating new risks to the public (PA Archive)

She said the challenge now was preparing “to face a new age of terrorism threat — one dominated by technological advancement, and the borderless and unregulated spaces of the internet” which had transformed the danger into a “very different terrorist threat to the one we faced back then”.

She added that this danger was influenced by the actions of corporations as well as nation states, as extremists use technology “to reach into people’s lives to terrify, to influence, to radicalise”.

Dame Cressida said: “The tech companies and social media platforms have become much better at working alongside law enforcement and governments to help protect people against a huge range of online threats. But...they are not doing enough to protect people against the harm that takes places on their platforms.”

Dame Cressida said the “proliferation of online extremist material” encouraging extremists to kill with knives and vehicles had been “dramatically narrowing” the time available to law enforcers to halt attacks from years to weeks.

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