Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5, the UK’s national security intelligence agency, has called on social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook to monitor user accounts and inform authorities of any users who cause particular concern.Parker was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in the first ever interview given by an MI5 chief in the agency’s 106-year history, when he claimed that social media services had a moral duty to monitor their users.
“I think it goes to the question of the ethical responsibility of these companies for the communications and the data that they hold and they carry, and this question comes up in the realm of child sexual exploitation, terrorism, [and] other forms of crime,” he said.
“Some of the social media companies operate arrangements for their own purposes under their codes of practice which cause them to close accounts sometimes because of what’s carried,” he added, before urging the companies to give this information to the intelligence agencies.
“I think there’s then a question about, why not come forward. If it’s something on sex exploitation or some other appalling area of crime, then why would the company not come forward?”
Parker bemoaned the use of secure, encrypted communication channels that he said are deployed by terrorists. He said that social media and other tech firms’ co-operation would help to prevent terrorists from “going dark”, an issue which he said was “very serious”.
“It requires that there’s a legal framework to authorise, but it also requires the co-operation of the companies who run and provide services over the internet that we all use,” he said.
“It’s in nobody’s interests that terrorists should be able to plot and communicate out of the reach of any authorities with proper legal power,” he added.
Last year, it was revealed that Facebook had known that one of Lee Rigby’s killers had discussed planning the murder on the social media site. Facebook shut down the account after its algorithm that checks on extremist activity had automatically blocked the user, but the social network failed to provide any information to the authorities, which could have helped to prevent the attack.