G7 countries and tech giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter on Friday agreed to work together to block the dissemination of extremism over the internet.
“These are the first steps towards a great alliance in the name of freedom,” Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said after a two-day meeting with his Group of Seven counterparts, stressing the importance of the internet for extremist “recruitment, training and radicalisation.”
Officials said the accord aimed at removing militant content from the web within two hours of being posted. “Our enemies are moving at the speed of a tweet and we need to counter them just as quickly,” acting United States Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said.
While acknowledging progress had been made, Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd insisted “companies need to go further and faster to not only take down extremist content but also stop it being uploaded in the first place”.
The meeting on the Italian island of Ischia off Naples also focused on ways to tackle one of the West’s biggest security threats —militants fleeing Syria — as the European Union promised to help close a migration route considered a potential back door for terrorists.
Tens of thousands of citizens from Western countries travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the militant Islamic State (IS) group between 2014 and 2016, including some who then returned home and staged attacks that claimed dozens of lives.
Minniti warned last week that the fighters planning revenge attacks following the collapse of the IS stronghold in Raqa could hitch lifts back to Europe on migrant boats from Libya.
The US and Italy signed an agreement on the sidelines of the G7 meeting to share their fingerprint databases in a bid to root out potential extremists posing as asylum seekers.
The “technical understanding” aims “to ascertain whether (migrants, asylum seekers or refugees) are noted criminal suspects or terrorists”, Minniti’s office said.
The Group of Seven — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US — said it had also called on the web giants to work with their smaller partners to bolster the anti-extremism shield.