After Terror Attacks, Britain Moves to Police the Web

In Germany, lawmakers are pushing ahead with fines of up to 50 million euros, or $56 million, if Silicon Valley companies do not limit how online hate speech circulates on their social networks.

Recent legislation already gives Britain’s law enforcement officials some of the world’s strongest powers to read and monitor online chatter from potential extremists.

Now the country’s politicians want to go further.

In its electoral manifesto and in speeches by senior politicians, the governing Conservative Party outlined proposals to offer security officials more ways to keep tabs on potential extremists. Theresa May, the prime minister, raised the issue at a recent Group of 7 meeting and in talks with President Emmanuel Macron of France.

But if the proposals are pushed through, there will be costs.

The Conservatives now rule with a minority in Parliament, and will most likely have to rely on other parties for support. That may necessitate compromise or horse trading.

And the additional measures could hurt Britain’s effort to court new investment from the global tech sector as it prepares to leave the European Union.

Who Should Have Access to Your Messages?

Mrs. May had a simple message after the recent deadly terrorist attack in London.

“We need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online,” she told the British public, echoing a similar message by her government after a previous attack in Manchester.

Part of that plan is to demand that companies such as Apple and Facebook allow Britain’s national security agencies access to people’s encrypted messages on services like FaceTime and WhatsApp.

These services use so-called end-to-end encryption, meaning that a person’s message is scrambled when it is sent from a device, so that it becomes indecipherable to anyone but its intended recipient.

British officials, like their American counterparts, would like to create a digital backdoor to this…

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