How terror cashes in on Web giants ‘wages of sin’

DAYS after a vehicle-rammer knifeman stabbed to death a London bobby, it took a researcher on a Sunday newspaper less than a minute to find a website with detailed instructions on how to use a blade to penetrate a so-called ‘stab-proof’ vest.

   Apparently Pc Keith Palmer, who was cold-bloodedly slain in the grounds of the Houses of Parliament last week, was wearing such a protective garment, since most uniformed British cops do nowadays and with good reason.
   However, I’m not concluding Islamic headbanger Khalid Masood – formerly popular Christian schoolboy Adrian Elms a.k.a. Ajao – swotted up online about where best to plunge a kitchen knife available in most supermarkets into Pc Palmer.
   All that matters is that he could have learned the tactic at the click of a few computer keys. Because that demands an answer to the shrieking question: how, in the names of common sense, decency and humanity is such lethal, provocative and inane drivel so easily accessible to any aspiring homicidal maniac?
   But don’t bother scratching for an answer.
   It simply a matter of money; the ‘wages of sin’ you might say, pocketed by such cash cows as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Google-owned YouTube and similar internet giants, which regularly provide Web space for terrorists, political and religious extremists and certifiable crazies to air their repellent ideologies.
   YouTube and its ilk employ ingenious algorithms, including ones designed to count the number of ‘clicks’ websites attract, irrespective of whether they are peddling marmalade or mayhem. And the more visitor interest a site attracts, the more advertisers pay for plying their wares on it.
   The problem with such ‘click-ometer’ marketing is that advertisers don’t necessarily know where their brands appear, since campaign strategies are often based on an over-simplified, ‘blunderbuss’ spread of exposure rather than a judicious, targeted (or ‘stiletto’) approach.
   Many would be appalled at knowing their products and services are published on loathsome, sometimes graphically horrific or obscene websites, posted by the likes of Islamo-fascist jihadis, neo-Nazis hate peddlers, porn brokers, paedophile groupies, hoaxers and confidence tricksters.
   Moreover, the advertisers would be further enraged if they realised many operators of these odious domains actually share in the social media platform’s profits.
   For instance, notorious Egyptian cleric and vicious anti-Semite, Wagdi Ghoneim – banned from the UK since 2009 because of government fears he is “seeking to foment, justify or glory terrorist violence” – is guesstimated to have netted £63,500/US$78,000 in ad revenues after his YouTube videos clicked up 31million hits, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.
   Ironically, ads that featured alongside Ghoneim’s loathsome rantings included ones for those UK taxpayer-owned media enterprises and paragons of Left-wing virtue, the BBC and Channel Four, plus The Guardian.
   Likewise, David Duke, the US white nationalist, Jew-baiter and former Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard, is a beneficiary of YouTube’s largesse and reckoned to have scooped £27,250/$34,000 from spouting execrable racism.
   Clearly, there’s filthy lucre for Google to make from outrageous extremists, relegating their noble corporate motto of “Don’t be evil” to a sick joke.
   What’s rich – figuratively speaking – is the internet search engine’s hierarchy hasn’t been exactly contrite over where its profits are generated, Ronan Harris, managing director of Google UK, lamely insisting, “We believe strongly in the freedom of speech and expression on the Web, even when that means we don’t agree with the views expressed.”
   Mr. Harris should be strongly disabused of this crass naivety.
   Quite properly, democratic, liberal nations have laws curbing extremist propaganda and incitement to violence, however it’s peddled. And internet platforms should be treated no differently from mainstream media or a lunatic screaming racist abuse through a loud-hailer.
   The dilemma facing governments, then – at least ones that give a damn about human rights and have the will to tackle online hate – is how to police the Web, let alone putting the brake on how some global conglomerates squirrel away their colossal gains in offshore tax havens.
   The solution, however, may lie not with politicians, but with advertisers, many of whom are now blackballing Google/YouTube or, at least, ensuring their ads don’t appear on the proliferation of sites laced with race-hate and DIY manuals in how to deal out death.
   Ditto shareholders.
   And such proactivity is having an impact, because Google knows it can’t afford to bite the hands that feed it, so is upping its game in filtering out venomous hogwash.
   Therefore the more companies that follow the lead of AT&T, Verizon, pharmaceutical company GSK, Pepsi, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson and car renter, Enterprise, who have pulled adverts from Google’s video-sharing platform, the quicker it will be that all internet operators purge their sites of material that is manifestly offensive.
   However, this doesn’t address a further scab festering in the world of trendy gizmos…that of companies like Apple and WhatsApp, which are resisting pleas to aid crime-busters investigating terror atrocities.    
   In the US, tech giant Apple has blocked demands from the FBI to ‘unlock’ an iPhone used by the ISIS-inspired couple, who were gunned down by police after murdering 14 party-goers in a shooting massacre in San Bernardino, California, in December, 2015.
   Apple claims the phone’s encryption is impossible to circumvent without the password. And, even if a ‘back door’ into it could be created, this would compromises the security of its devices bought by millions worldwide.
   Now WhatsApp – which enables users to send texts and pictures over the internet – is refusing to co-operate with Scotland Yard detectives in accessing the final message sent on its server by Masood before he launched his bloody rampage in London last week.
   The Facebook-owned company insists its so-called “end-to-end encryption” prevents even in-house wonks from reading messages sent by its billion users.
   Like Google’s hypocritical mission statement, “Don’t be evil”, WhatsApp contends that protecting its users’ private communication is one of its “core beliefs”.
   Evidently, safeguarding the public at large is not.