Can the world ever really keep terrorists off the internet?

London terror attack. Photo: Twitter (@airnewsalerts)

After London’s most recent terror attacks, British Prime Minister Theresa May called on countries to collaborate on internet regulation to prevent terrorism planning online. May criticised online spaces that allow such ideas to breed, and the companies that host them.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said it is time to say ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to tackling terrorism.

May did not identify any companies by name, but she could have been referring to the likes of Google, Twitter and Facebook. In the past, British lawmakers have said these companies offer terrorism a platform. She also might have been referring to smaller companies, like the developers of apps like Telegram, Signal and Wickr, which are favored by terrorist groups. These apps offer encrypted messaging services that allow users to hide communications.

May is not alone in being concerned about attacks on citizens. After her comments on Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to work with allies and do whatever it takes to stop the spread of terrorism. He did not, however, specifically mention internet regulation.

President Donald Trump addressed the London terror attacks during an event at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.

Internet companies and other commentators, however, have pushed back against the suggestion that more government regulation is needed, saying weakening everyone’s encryption poses different public dangers. Many have also questioned whether some regulation, like banning encryption, is possible at all.

Because the internet is geographically borderless, nearly any message can have a global audience. Questions about online regulation have persisted for years, especially regarding harmful information. As a law professor who studies the impact of the internet on society, I believe the goal of international collaboration is incredibly complicated, given global history.

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