Terror law reviewer: don't criminalise the internet

Expert calls on tech firms to "strain every muscle" fighting hate speech

The government's own terror law reviewer has warned against criminalising the internet, contrary to frequent calls from PM Theresa May that more regulation is required to push tech firms to do more to fight extremism online. 

Queen's Counsel Max Hill was named the independent reviewer of terror legislation earlier this year. His job is to ensure anti-terror laws are fit for purpose, reporting to Parliament about how they are used. 

According to a Sky report, he told a conference on Terrorism and Social Media, held in Swansea, that new legal powers weren't needed to battle extremism and terror online. 

"I struggle to see how it would help if our Parliament were to criminalise tech company bosses who 'don't do enough'. How do we measure 'enough'? What is the appropriate sanction?" the report cited Hill as saying. "We do not live in China, where the internet simply goes dark for millions when government so decides. Our democratic society cannot be treated that way."

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Instead, he encouraged the government to work with the "companies who make eye-watering sums of money from our everyday chatter" to help with harder to see communications.  

Indeed, he called for such tech companies to "strain every muscle" to stop hate speech and terror-encouraging material from spreading online, according to a Times report. 

May has repeatedly called for internet firms to do more to battle online extremism, particularly targeting encryption in messaging apps such as WhatsApp. Her government has also threatened to fine companies that leave hate speech online, and pulled its own advertising from Google after its marketing messages were shown alongside extremist material.

Tech companies including Google, Twitter and Facebook have promised to do better, with the latter introducing a UK-focused plan to tackle hate speech

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