Parson's Green, Extremist Propaganda and the Internet

Another week, another terrorist atrocity. The Parsons Green bombing was yet another chilling reminder of the threat we face, and the debt we owe to the police and security services who confront it. These recent attacks are not so much a spike as a shift.

What’s more, research published this week from Policy Exchange shows online jihadist propaganda getting more clicks in the UK than in any other European country. We are now the fifth biggest audience in the world for extremist content. Only Iraq, Turkey, the USA and Saudi Arabia attract more.

There has been no trial yet in respect of the Parsons Green case, so we shouldn’t rush to judgement. But the wider truth is that the struggle we’re engaged in is not with a foreign state or army. It’s with something far more insidious and amorphous: an idea. It’s a warped and perverted jihadist ideology which hates the tolerance and religious freedom we hold dear.

That explains why, just because on the ground in Syria and Iraq Daesh is in full retreat, there is no sign of any decline of the terror group on the internet. Daesh-supporting sources produce more than 100 new articles, videos and newspapers every week. They are being piped into the phones of young Britons, radicalising an enemy within.

It all means the huge resources of blood and treasure that are spent intervening in ‘ungoverned space’ in Syria and Afghanistan are undermined if large parts of the internet here at home remain equally lawless. Terrorists are using a vast range of platforms to disseminate their hate, including encrypted platforms and the so-called dark net. But they’re also hiding in plain sight, using Facebook and Twitter to spread propaganda and assistance to would-be British terrorists.

These corporate giants have simply got to be more pro-active in seeking out and deleting extremist content. As former US military chief Gen David Petraeus has written, efforts to combat online extremism are “inadequate”.

Let me be clear: I don’t want to see heavy-handed state intrusion into the internet. I’m uncomfortable with that. But if the major platforms want to remain reputable they’ve got to do more.

On a much happier note, on Thursday 28 September I’m organising a Retirement Fair at Honeybourne Gate, 2 Gloucester Rd, GL51 8DW, from 11am to 2pm. There will be a host of stalls offering free advice and support. Everyone is welcome to attend.