The Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement providing a Russian look on the British-French initiative to counteract terroristpropaganda online (source):
The high-level ministerial events at the UN General Assembly in New York this September serve as the leading platform for the presentation of various international initiatives. In this context, we were not surprised by the time or place of the British-French proposals to boost the efforts against terrorist propaganda online.
Everything was done in the style of the best PR campaigns. However, our partners have been working on these allegedly sensational ideas for some time. In fact, they were promoted – as something out of the ordinary – by British Prime Minister Theresa May at the G7 summit in Taormina in May. Similar measures are being promoted by the European Union.
However, Russia, has been speaking about this – the need for a collective and vigorous efforts to counter the use of the information space, the internet and social networks by terrorists – for years, and only now there is a reaction, even if it is not connected to our proposals and initiatives.
We have to admit that such a 180 degree turn in the rhetoric of the leading western states is good news: maybe someone in the West, some leaders have finally begun to realise the obvious facts that Russia and some other countries, I must repeat, have been speaking about for years. Unfortunately, it seems that this amazing revelation only came after another series of terrorist attacks in European cities. Anyway, better late than never.
We have long been urging the international community to pay attention to one of the key driving forces behind the current steep growth of terrorism and extremism in the world; the answer has always been in the inability of all countries to join efforts and counteract the massive distribution of terrorist ideology and propaganda.
Due to this lack of unity and the alleged indecision of the global community, but in reality due to a lack of political will in some places, international terrorism has achieved impressive results in the use of cutting-edge technology and communications for its criminal purposes, be it information, propaganda or mobilisation.
I would like to remind you that one year ago Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke at the UN General Assembly and called for counteracting terrorism not only through military means, but also by joining the fight for the hearts and minds of people.
Soon afterwards, in October 2016, the Russian Federation submitted to the UN Security Council a draft resolution on counteracting terrorist ideology. The measures proposed by the resolution were effective and tested at a national level and included preventing the incitement to terrorism and its public justification, as well as blocking and eliminating terrorist content on the internet. However, they were rejected by the Western states outright, without discussion, under a pretext of the protection of the freedom of speech, which they perceived as an absolute value.
I must say that such a categorical approach suspiciously coincided with the disgusting campaign in the western information space aimed at slandering the actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria, up to justifying terrorists’ actions “against those Russians.”
We believe that such cynical manipulations by foreign states play into terrorists’ hands and contribute to the radicalisation of public attitudes while directly and recklessly inciting to commit terrorist attacks. It is good that our partners – I am fairly optimistic about this – are finally beginning to get a sense of the line where there must be no place for the notorious double standards in anti-terrorism efforts.
Returning to the new British-French initiative, we largely support many approaches and priorities formulated in this document. We are all facing the common task to stop the terrorist propaganda on the internet and in social networks, which often goes unpunished. This must be done through drastic legislative and law enforcement measures, and at the same time, as part of the responsible public-private partnership with internet companies. I mean all companies, especially large ones, and this must be done without double standards and artificial and groundless accusations against, for instance, Russians. We also believe that the traditional online media should play a significant role in this effort, primarily by distributing counterpropaganda and fostering “civil immunity” against terrorist ideology.
However, all this will remain appealing but empty words if our partners keep dividing challenges posed by terrorism in the information space into those that threaten their people and those that are aimed against others. This is not an area where rivalry for leadership can be justified. No country in the world can eliminate all sources and carriers of terrorist propaganda on its own and prevent the distribution of terrorist ideas.
In this context, we are again concerned about the Freudian slips of tongue that the British made, saying that the circle of partners to cooperate in preventing the use of the information and communications technologies for terrorist purposes will be limited and based on the principle of selecting some “allied democratic states”.
This is the logic of bloc mentality at its finest. We would like to give a warning that in this case no tangible results will be achieved. On the contrary, if these initiatives leave a loophole, so beloved by western countries, that will allow them to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries, destabilise undesirable regimes and justify the actions of terrorists depending on the political context, then all their efforts against terrorism on the internet will remain a sham, even if citing good-looking statistics of blocked terrorist content by western companies at the request of western countries.
We are planning to conduct a thorough analysis of the British-French proposals. In turn, we are ready to make our own proposals based on Russia’s positive experience that proved effective in blocking and deleting terrorist and extremist content. At the same time, we are open to dialogue with our western partners while sticking to the basic premise that the state and its competent agencies should play a key role in anti-terrorist and anti-extremist efforts, with civil society institutions and the private sector playing an important but only secondary, advisory role.