Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp helping ISIS, U.K. spy alleges
'They have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals'
The new head of Britain's electronic eavesdropping agency says U.S.-based social media have become "command-and-control networks" for terrorists and criminals, and tech companies are in denial about their misuse.
Writing in Tuesday's Financial Times, GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan said British intelligence agencies know that Islamic State in Iraq and Syria extremists use messaging services like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to reach their peers with ease.
He said spy agencies need to have greater support from the U.S. technology companies which dominate the Web in order to fight militants and those who host material about violent extremism and child exploitation.
"However much (tech companies) may dislike it, they have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us," he wrote.
"To those of us who have to tackle the depressing end of human behavior on the Internet, it can seem that some technology companies are in denial about its misuse," Hannigan wrote.
He said the challenge of new technology required "better arrangements for facilitating lawful investigation by security and law enforcement agencies than we have now."
While terrorist propaganda is not new on the Internet, authorities say the rise of the ISIS group and the proliferation of al-Qaeda offshoots has multiplied its message, reaching an even broader audience through its sophistication and familiarity with the media.
Twitter declined to comment on the story. Facebook — which owns WhatsApp — had no immediate comment.
Eve Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online privacy group that is partly funded by tech companies, said "there are already plenty of mechanisms in place at these companies to police the kinds of speech that we have decided are illegal."
Referring to the large-scale snooping programs revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, she told BBC radio that intelligence agencies' "powers are already immense. I think that asking for more is really quite disingenuous."