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Fight Against Extremism: Tech Firms Need To Do More, Says Australia Spy Chief

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Australia’s intelligence agency has raised concerns about its investigations being hindered by technology companies that are not cooperating with legal requests for access to encrypted communications. This statement is set to be part of a speech by Mike Burgess, the Director-General of Security for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), in Canberra.

Burgess will highlight issues arising from “offshore extremists” using a commercially available artificial intelligence programme to seek advice on constructing weapons. He will call on tech companies to allow ASIO access to encrypted user messages under Australian law, which permits such action in specific cases with a warrant.

The speech will address the activities of some Australians who are part of a nationalist and racist extremist network. These individuals reportedly use an encrypted chat platform for communicating with extremists abroad, exchanging disturbing content and sharing information on homemade weapons and strategies to incite a race war. The encrypted nature of their communications significantly limits ASIO’s ability to investigate these threats.

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Burgess will stress the need for “lawful and targeted access to extremist communications” to enhance the agency’s effectiveness in preventing terrorism. He will urge tech companies to comply more fully with existing laws to help combat these security threats.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk has publicly criticised Australian authorities following a court’s decision requiring his company, X, to remove footage of an alleged terrorist attack in Sydney. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese responded by emphasising that even high-profile individuals and platforms must abide by the law.

With inputs from Reuters