A senior British politician has made the extraordinary claim that Islamic State makes frequent use of Snapchat and Whatsapp, Guido Fawkes reports — and is even suggesting that the encrypted messaging apps have helped enable recent “gains” by the militant Jihadist group.
Encrypted messaging is being fiercely debated in the UK. Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron said if he won the next General Election, he would push to outlaw “strong” encryption that doesn’t have a “backdoor” for law enforcement access.
Critics responded that some of the largest tech communications companies in the world make use of strong encryption, including WhatsApp, Snapchat and Apple. They’re unlikely to agree to make any changes.
During a debate on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill today, former Defence Secretary Tom King made some eyebrow-raising comments on the subject. The Lord declared his ignorance of messaging services — before claiming they are vital to Islamic State’s infrastructure.
“I am not a tweeter,” he told the House of Lords. “We have Facebook and Twitter. Somebody tried to explain WhatsApp to me, somebody else tried to explain Snapchat. I do not know about them — but it is absolutely clear the terrorists and jihadists do.”
“The understanding is that part of the reason for ISIL’s amazing advance across Syria and into Iraq was that their communications were so good,” King continued, “and the way they kept together was entirely due to one or other of the last two systems that I mentioned.”
It’s not clear where King gets his information from, or whether Islamic State and other Islamist groups actually use apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat or not. But they are known to have developed their own proprietary encryption tools. As such, even if the government were to outlaw encryption — and were able to enforce the ban, persuading WhatsApp et al to drop it — terrorist organisations would likely still be unaffected.
Watch Lord King’s full remarks below: