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Home Secretary Amber Rudd starts UK tour from Poplar to stop teenage radicalisation

PUBLISHED: 12:08 02 September 2017

Home Secretary (right) meets community groups at Poplar on her fact-finding tour about child radicalisation. Photo: Hiome Office

Home Secretary (right) meets community groups at Poplar on her fact-finding tour about child radicalisation. Photo: Hiome Office

Hiome Office

The government is pledging to take illegal material like “how to make a bomb” down from the internet in its renewed battle to prevent schoolchildren becoming radicalised.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd: 'We want to get everything down from the web that’s illegal.' Photo: Mike BrookeHome Secretary Amber Rudd: 'We want to get everything down from the web that’s illegal.' Photo: Mike Brooke

But the Home Secretary, speaking to parent groups in east London where four schoolgirls fled to Syria to become Jihadist brides, denied it was an attempt at censorship.

Amber Rudd met Tower Hamlets council officials, the Met’s local borough police commander and community groups at Poplar’s Idea Store at the start of her nationwide fact-finding tour this week.

It follows in the wake of the four schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy who skipped the country in 2014-15 to join Isis in Syria without their families realising.

“We are working to take extremist material off the internet,” the Home Secretary told the East London Advertiser after her meeting. “We want to get everything down from the web that’s illegal, all the horrific instructive stuff like how to make a bomb.”

"We want to get everything down from the web that’s illegal, all the horrific instructive stuff like how to make a bomb"

Home Secretary Amber Rudd

But Mrs Rudd denied it was censorship when asked if there was a moral issue in trying to influence teenagers and the danger of labelling them ‘potential terrorists’.

“We miss the point if we pick over the moral issues,” she insisted. “Nobody wants their children to become radicalised by extremism.

“The moral obligation is for the government to help schools and parents make sure children are protected from going down that path.”

It was still too easy to access “bomb making” information, so the government is urging parents to become more active online and schools to look for signs of pupils falling prey to fundamentalist influences.

Three of the Bethnal Green schoolgirls caught on camera at Gatwick on way to Syria, February 2015. Photo: Met PoliceThree of the Bethnal Green schoolgirls caught on camera at Gatwick on way to Syria, February 2015. Photo: Met Police

Its ‘Prevent’ strategy obliges schools to look out for any evidence of recruitment into political extremism with young minds being exposed to political rhetoric before they can develop an understanding, as the incident with the Bethnal Green teenagers showed.

“That unfortunate event has acted as a catalyst in this area,” the Home Secretary added. “Teachers are more confident about being able to take action.

“It’s now more about stopping the friends of those girls taking the same path.”

She heard from one organisation, Parent Zone social enterprise, working to get parents ‘savvy’ about the internet to challenge unreliable information their children might be receiving and also helps youngsters make their way through ‘fake’ news.

Bethnal Green Academy in 2015 when schoolgirls slipped out to Syria. Photo: Mike BrookeBethnal Green Academy in 2015 when schoolgirls slipped out to Syria. Photo: Mike Brooke

Parent Zone’s Sophie Lilington explained: “Children know internet technology, but don’t have the life skills of their parents to understand why people are trying to influence them. We encourage parents to take their off-line parenting skills into the online world.”

The organisation, set up 11 years ago, runs school assemblies, parent sessions and trains teachers.

“The girls who went to Syria was evidence of a generation gap,” Sophie added. “Parents don’t want their children on the street getting involved in violence and crime, so they encourage computers at home. But nobody realised the potential of this at the time.”

Awareness has grown since, with children no longer automatically sharing news, but were “questioning whether it’s been photoshopped or just gossip”.

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