GCHQ Chief: Twitter and Facebook Help Terrorists; Fanatics Using Social Media as 'Command and Control Networks'

Daily Mail (London), November 4, 2014 | Go to article overview

GCHQ Chief: Twitter and Facebook Help Terrorists; Fanatics Using Social Media as 'Command and Control Networks'


Byline: James Slack Home Affairs Editor

GLOBAL internet companies have become 'the command and control networks of choice' for terrorists, claims the new head of Britain's electronic spying agency.

GCHQ director Robert Hannigan insisted some were 'in denial' about the way fanatics misuse their services.

He cited how Islamic State (IS) has exploited social media for recruitment and propaganda - using the likes of Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube to promote beheadings. The terror groups and its followers have also sent up to 40,000 tweets a day.

Mr Hannigan called on the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft to give greater co-operation to GCHQ and sister agencies MI5 and MI6.

He also said there was 'no doubt' young foreign fighters had benefited from the treasure trove of intelligence secrets leaked by fugitive CIA worker Edward Snowden. 'GCHQ and its sister agencies cannot tackle these challenges at scale without greater support from the private sector, including the largest US technology companies which dominate the web', he said.

'I understand why they have an uneasy relationship with governments. They aspire to be neutral conduits of data and to sit outside or above politics.

'But increasingly their services not only host the material of violent extremism or child exploitation, but are the routes for the facilitation of crime and terrorism.

'However much they 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.' Officials say the job of the spy agencies has become 'much harder' over the past 18 months as US firms become less willing to hand over data to British security officials.

Whitehall sources say the companies have changed how they behave in response to the Snowden revelations.

His exposure of how GCHQ and America's National Security Agency was able to tap into online data has made companies nervous about protecting their own reputations, they said.

Writing in the Financial Times, Mr Hannigan said mobile technology and smartphones have increased the options available to terrorists 'exponentially'. …

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