Group of Seven leaders meeting in Sicily on Friday called on Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and other internet companies to do “substantially” more to take extremist material offline. The gathering comes just four days after a suicide bomber killed 22 people in Manchester, an attack “that demonstrates that we must now redouble our efforts,” the leaders said in a statement after the first day of talks. They pledged to tackle the risk posed by fighters as they disperse from the battlefields of Syria, Libya and elsewhere.
The show of unity comes as the U.K. is still on the highest alert for further terrorist attacks, with thousands of troops taking to the streets to help keep the public safe. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who is leaving the summit a day early to return to London, led the push for the changes in the wake of the bombing.
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“Against the backdrop of Monday’s cowardly attack in Manchester, we have discussed what more we can do together to address the threat from terror,” May said. “Make no mistake, the fight is moving from the battlefield to the internet.”
May had pushed for a statement that would urge companies to develop tools to automatically identify material based on what it contains and who has posted it — and help the authorities identify and catch extremists.
“While being one of the most important technological achievements in the last decades, the Internet has also proven to be a powerful tool for terrorist purposes,” the G-7 leaders said in a statement. The called on internet service providers and social media companies “to substantially increase their efforts to address terrorist content.”
The G-7 leaders also pledged to help create an industry-led forum to work together on the issues. Speaking to reporters, May said that G-7 ministers would soon meet on the issue.
“That is a big step forward,” May told reporters. “We have put our full weight behind the creation of this.”