France has asked Google, Facebook and Twitter to work directly with French officials during investigations and to immediately remove extremist propaganda when authorities alert them to it, the French interior minister has said.
Bernard Cazeneuve told journalists that he had made the request to the giant internet firms during a one-day visit to San Francisco and Silicon Valley on Friday.
“We emphasised that when an investigation is under way we don’t want to go through the usual government to government channels, which can take so long,” said the interior minister after a meeting with representatives from the US tech giants.
“It’s important to have full cooperation and quick reaction,” he added.
I told them we can figure this out together, we can come up with counterterrorism speech and block these sites that are enticing the most vulnerable members of our society to commit terrorist acts.
The interior minister’s comments came just over a month after the attacks on French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, which killed 20 people including three gunmen.
Twitter and Facebook spokespeople said they do everything they can to stop material that incites violence but didn’t say whether they would heed the minister’s request for direct cooperation with French authorities.
“We regularly host ministers and other governmental officials from across the world at Facebook, and were happy to welcome Mr Cazeneuve today,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
“We work aggressively to ensure that we do not have terrorists or terror groups using the site, and we also remove any content that praises or supports terrorism.”
When asked whether Twitter would work closely with French investigators, a spokesperson said their website outlines the guidelines for law enforcement to request information.
“We review all reported content against our rules, which prohibit direct, specific threats of violence against others,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
An email to Google requesting comment was not immediately answered.
Cazeneuve said he called on the tech companies to join in the fight against extremist propaganda disseminated on the internet and to block extremists’ ability to use websites and videos to recruit and indoctrinate new followers.
The pace of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other armed groups has not slowed and at least 3,400 come from Western nations among 20,000 from around the world, US intelligence officials say.
“I told them we can figure this out together, we can come up with counterterrorism speech and block these sites that are enticing the most vulnerable members of our society to commit terrorist acts,” he said.
France is also pushing to treat “jihadi material” on the internet like child pornography, a task that before the attacks in Paris was getting scant traction but now seems to have caught the attention of Europe’s top security officials.
Cazeneuve said the meeting on Friday was a first step in building a strong relationship between the tech companies and the French government.
He said he invited them to go to Paris in April to continue the conversation.