Online censorship alert: David Cameron says Internet cannot be ‘ungoverned’

David Cameron has called for governments around the world to do more to prevent the spread of extremist material online.

The UK Prime Minister made his comments during a visit to Australia’s Parliament, which will be followed by the G20 leaders’ summit taking place later this week.

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While the hardline stance against terrorism is likely to be welcomed by most, his comments regarding increased control over the web may have freedom of speech activists concerned.

“The root cause of the challenge we face is the extremist narrative,” he said. “A new and pressing challenge is getting extremist material taken down from the Internet. There is a role for government in that. We must not allow the Internet to be an ungoverned space. But there is a role for companies too.”

Mr Cameron then went on to detail measures already being taken in the UK to combat online extremism, including strengthening filters, improving reporting mechanisms and being more proactive in taking down harmful material.

His remarks do suggest a desire to extend government powers over what can and cannot be shared online. The “dissemination of terrorist publications” is already prohibited under Part 1, Section 2 of the 2006 Terrorism Act, but many will be concerned that further legislation may extend beyond extremist content and threaten freedom of speech online.

Last year, Mr Cameron introduced controversial anti-pornography filters across some of the UK’s major Internet service providers (ISPs); a move that was heavily criticised by some, including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

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The British government also recently revealed plans to reduce the amount of hate material online. However, a report released in May revealed that the proposal is experiencing a number of hurdles, including opposition from ISPs and social networks, particularly those based outside the UK.