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The aftermath of last week’s London terror attacks saw renewed calls from politicians for weakened online encryption, along with backdoors into services like WhatsApp. UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she would be meeting technology firms to discuss the matter, and while the companies have agreed to do more to tackle terrorist content, it appears that encryption wasn’t on the agenda.
In a joint statement, senior executives from Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft promised to “tackle this vital issue” of extremist material.
"Our companies are committed to making our platforms a hostile space for those who seek to do harm and we have been working on this issue for several years," the statement reads. "We share the Government's commitment to ensuring terrorists do not have a voice online."
Rudd said it was important to ensure organizations like WhatsApp don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other. “We need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp," she told the BBC.
There is no mention of encryption in the joint statement. The letter set out three ways to remove terrorists’ online content: the creation of better tools to identify and remove the material; helping other tech companies do the same, and supporting actions by "civil society organizations" that "promote alternative and counter-narratives."
Precise details, such as a plan of action and timelines, weren’t mentioned. Chair of the home affairs select committee, Yvette Cooper, said the outcome of the meeting was “a bit lame.”
“All the government and social media companies appear to have agreed is to discuss options for a possible forum in order to have more discussions,” said the MP.
The Guardian reports that Apple executives were not at the meeting, reportedly because it did not deal with the issue of encryption.
Rudd released her own statement following the meeting, in which she said she intends to tackle the issue of encryption “through further, separate discussions.”
“I am clear that government and industry need to work more closely together on this issue so that law enforcement and the intelligence agencies can get access to the data they need to keep us safe,” she said.