British PM Suggests Banning SnapChat, WhatsApp to Prevent Terrorism


The rise of terrorism at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists throughout Europe has become so profound that Prime Minister David Cameron says he plans on placing restrictions on, and potentially banning, encrypted online communication tools that could be used by these groups and individuals to carry out their attacks on civilians.

Cameron said he would take this action if Britain’s intelligence services were inhibited from gaining access to this sensitive information, according to the New York Times.

The suggested move would likely affect social media apps such as SnapChat and Whatsapp; both of which use encryption to delivery messages and which provide easy means of communication that oftentimes goes undetected. Cameron is calling for the country’s intelligence agencies to attain greater access into monitoring these sort of services to help thwart future attacks.

“Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read? My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not,'” Cameron said during a speech on Monday, notes the Times. “The attacks in Paris demonstrated the scale of the threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies in order to keep our people safe,” he reportedly added.

Cameron was among world leaders who marched through the streets of Paris to condemn terrorism and stand behind free speech rights. The PM, who has been campaigning throughout England ahead of May’s national elections, said he would seek to implement restrictions on these services as early as 2016. Yet, it is uncertain whether the government will be able to prevent people from using the encryption-enabling apps due to their overwhelming presence globally.

The topic of free speech has come under tremendous scrutiny as a result of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The undeniable commonality of violent retaliation from members of the Muslim faith over insults to their religion and Muhammed, has caused leaders of nations where free speech is an underlying principal to question whether constraints should be placed on that inalienable right.

Cameron’s words this past week echo what several other groups have attempted to achieve with the eradication of ISIS and terrorist-affiliated accounts. Last year, American tech giants, such as Twitter and Microsoft, and European officials discussed a strategy to control what information is published on their networks, notes the Times. However, the companies have resisted greater oversight by intelligence services.

In November, Facebook reportedly faced the brunt of criticism from British lawmakers for failing to tell the country’s authorities about specific online threats made by two men prior to murdering a solider in a 2013 terrorist attack in London. The Times wrote that Facebook had declined to comment on the accusations but that it had taken measures to prevent terrorists from using its social network.

Thousands of Europeans have reportedly left France, England, and other countries in order to join ISIS in the Middle East. France is now considering implementing measures mirroring what the Patriot Act does for the United States in an attempt to thwart the threat that now lives within its own borders.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter: @AdelleNaz.