• The prime minister will accuse social-media companies of providing a platform for extremists.
  • May will say terrorists, slave traders, and child abusers are using Facebook and other networks with ease.
  • She will use a speech at the World Economic Forum to urge tech investors to pile pressure on firms to act.
  • The PM will call on the "best brains" in tech to create new ways of automatically identifying extremists.

LONDON -- Theresa May will launch a full public attack on Facebook and other social-media companies, accusing them of helping terrorists, slave traders, and child abusers.

The prime minister will use her speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday to call on investors to "put pressure" on tech companies to force them to crack down on criminals and terrorists using their networks.

"These companies simply cannot stand by while their platforms are used to facilitate child abuse, modern slavery, or the spreading of terrorist and extremist content," May will say.

"Earlier this month a group of shareholders demanded that Facebook and Twitter disclose more information about sexual harassment, fake news, hate speech, and other forms of abuse that take place on the companies' platforms.

"Investors can make a big difference here by ensuring trust and safety issues are being properly considered. And I urge them to do so."

May will say that social media companies have a "responsibility" to use their "best brains" to develop new ways of automatically removing extremist content from their platforms.

"These companies have some of the best brains in the world. They must focus their brightest and best on meeting these fundamental social responsibilities," she will say.

Downing Street believes the public are growing angry at tech firms' inability or unwillingness to tackle the abuse of social media.

Aides cite recent research by Edelman, which found 70 percent of British people believe social-media companies don't do enough to stop illegal and extreme material from being shared on their platforms.

The study also found that a third of people now do not believe that social media is a force for good in society.

Attack of the robots.

Theresa MayNurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

May will also use her speech to warn technology companies that dealing with public concerns about the impact of new innovations in artificial intelligence technology will be the "greatest tests of leadership for our time." 

She will add: "But it is a test that I am confident we can meet. For right across the long sweep of history, from the invention of electricity to advent of factory production, time and again initially disquieting innovations have delivered previously unthinkable advances and we have found the way to make those changes work for all our people."

The speech follows the creation of a new "Anti-Fake News" unit by May's government this week.

The unit, which was announced on Tuesday, will focus on the use of social media to spread "disinformation" and propaganda by hostile foreign powers like Russia. 

This post originally appeared on Business Insider. 

Published on: Jan 24, 2018