LONDON (Reuters) – Twitter and Facebook are so important to militant groups that the US technology giants should give security services greater access to allow Western governments to foil attacks, the head of Britain’s eavesdropping agency said.
The new director of Britain’s GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, said Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc and WhatsApp were in denial about their unintended role as “the command and control networks of choice for terrorists”.
Islamic State militants are harnessing the power of the Internet to create a militant network with near global reach just a quarter of a century since the creation of the World Wide Web, Hannigan said.
“The challenge to governments and their intelligence agencies is huge – and it can only be met with greater cooperation from technology companies,” Hannigan wrote in the Financial Times newspaper.
“If they are to meet this challenge, it means coming up with better arrangements for facilitating lawful investigation by security
and law enforcement agencies than we have now.”
Twitter and Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, declined immediate comment before US business hours. GCHQ also declined to comment on the article.
Such a strong public warning from one of the West’s most powerful spies indicates the gravity of the perceived threat and a sense of frustration felt by many spies about the damage done by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Media reports based on previously top secret documents stolen by Snowden, a US citizen who now lives in Moscow, laid bare the extent of American and British surveillance, including demands spies made to telephone and technology companies.
In the wake of the Snowden revelations, GCHQ, which stands for Government Communica-tions Headquarters, was accused by privacy
groups and some lawmakers of the wide-
spread illegal monitoring of electronic commu-nications.