Sajid Javid has insisted there are not enough powers to tackle online abuse and extremism, adding he is “taking very seriously” calls to reform treason laws.
The Home Secretary was pressed by MPs to act urgently to force major internet firms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to do more to stamp out extreme content.
Conservative Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, also raised concerns over “vile extremism” spread over the internet which encourages people to join terror group Islamic State and others.
He added: “Will (Mr Javid) agree with me that the opportunity has really come to change the law here and to look at how we can charge people with treason?
“Will he look at the espionage bill that is coming before the House soon and seeing whether or not the Policy Exchange report that was written by me and (Labour MP Khalid Mahmood) could perhaps be used as an inspiration to some amendments to that law?”
Mr Javid replied: “It’s an important point.”
He noted the Government has received new powers to fight terrorism via the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, adding: “He also raised the issue of further potential powers, including powers around treason.
“These are issues that I’m taking very seriously, we are looking at this and I’d be happy to meet with him to discuss this further.”
Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield, earlier said he has not received half as much “vile stuff” compared to his female colleagues. He added: “I get threats, I’ve had people arrested for some of the things they’ve posted on my website.
“Could we have action now because it’s a culture we’ve got to change, people writing anonymously, horrible threats, disgusting stalking. Let’s put an end to it now.”
Mr Javid replied: “I very much share the sentiment of (Mr Sheerman).
“He’s pointed out there is some action the police and law enforcement could take today but it’s not enough, I don’t think there are enough rules and laws in place to tackle this, and that’s why we’re working across government to see what more needs to be done.”
Labour MP Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) also asked: “What penalties does the Home Secretary envisage imposing on the internet giants who have so far proved reluctant to help stamp out extreme content online?”
Mr Javid said Ms Sherriff and other MPs have suffered from “vile content” directed at them online, noting this was “absolutely unacceptable”.
He went on: “That’s why more needs to be done.
“We are working closely across government, especially my department with the culture department, on the online harms white paper.
“I don’t want to prejudge and announce now what’s in that paper but I can assure her that we’re taking this issue very, very seriously.”