Facebook draws criticism for failing to expose conversation of Lee Rigby killer's planned attack conducted on its network

An investigation into intelligence agency practices in the run-up to fusilier Lee Rigby's murder has found that a conversation of the killer discussing how he would carry out the attack went unnoticed on Facebook.

Michael Adebowale discussed his “desire to murder a soldier in the most explicit and emotive manner” on the social network before violently attacking Lee Rigby with his accomplice Michael Adebolajo at Woolwich barracks on 22 May 2013, according to the Telegraph.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) on Tuesday criticised major tech firms, such as Facebook, for not allowing intelligence agencies access to data which could prevent terrorist attacks, such as Rigby's murder.

The report absconded intelligence agencies of fault instead laying the blame on internet tech companies.

“We have found only one issue which could have been decisive. That was the exchange – not seen until after the attack – between Adebowale and an individual overseas [known as Foxtrot] in December 2012. In this exchange, Adebowale told Foxtrot that he intended to murder a soldier.

“Had MI5 access to this exchange, their investigation into Adebowale would have become top priority. It is difficult to speculate on the outcome but there is a significant possibility that MI5 would then have been able to prevent the attack.”

It concluded: “The party which could have made a difference was the company on whose platform the exchange took place. However, this company does not appear to regard itself as under any obligation to ensure that its systems identify such exchanges, or to take action or notify the authorities when its communications services appear to be used by terrorists. There is therefore a risk that, however unintentionally, it provides a safe haven for terrorists to communicate within.”

Antony Walker, deputy chief executive at techUK, the industry body for UK internet firms, said in a statement: “Companies have taken significant steps to be transparent with the public about how they work with law enforcement and security agencies by publishing regular transparency reports.

“These reports make it clear that tech companies do engage with law enforcement and security agencies in the course of terrorist and other investigations and that the level of cooperation is undiminished.”

Earlier this month, Robert Hannigan, the new head of UK intelligence agency GCHQ warned that Facebook, Google and Twitter have become the ‘command and control networks of choice’ for terrorists and criminals.

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