U.K.'s Rudd to Meet Social-Media Companies on Fighting Terrorism

  • Rudd says it’s ‘unacceptable’ WhatsApp messages can’t be read
  • Premier May’s spokesman says there’s more companies can do

U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd will meet social-media companies Thursday to ask for help in combating terrorism after calling on Facebook Inc. to open the encryption of its WhatsApp messaging system to security services.

“We believe there is more the social-media companies can do to help with the fight against terrorism,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters in London Monday, announcing the planned meeting.

After newspapers disclosed that Khalid Masood, who killed four people on Westminster Bridge and at the U.K. Parliament in central London last week, had used WhatsApp shortly before he began his attack, Rudd identified the company in a BBC Television interview on Sunday as needing to do more and urged online companies to be more aggressive in shutting down sites exploited by terrorists.

“It’s completely unacceptable” that messages can’t be opened, Rudd told the BBC. “We need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into encrypted services like WhatsApp.”

Since the attack, government ministers have berated online companies for taking inadequate steps to stop the spread of hate messages. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Rudd said the internet is “serving as a conduit, inciting and inspiring violence, and spreading extremist ideology.”

“This is not about trying to gain access to yours or whoever else’s WhatsApp messages,” Slack said. “What we are talking about here is in relation to a specific investigation.”

Rudd told Sky News television Sunday that when she meets company executives, “they’re going to get a lot more than a ticking off.”

— With assistance by Robert Hutton, and Giles Turner

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