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Internet companies should face a tax punishment for failing to deal with the threat of terrorism in the UK, security minister Ben Wallace has said.

Mr Wallace said firms such as Facebook, Google and YouTube were too slow to remove radical content online, forcing the government to act instead.

While tech firms were “ruthless profiteers”, governments were spending millions policing the web, he added.

Facebook said Mr Wallace was wrong to say it put profits before safety.

YouTube said violent extremism was a “complex problem” and addressing it was a “critical challenge for us all”.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Wallace said tech giants were failing to help prevent the radicalisation of people online.

“Because content is not taken down as quickly as they could do,” he claimed, “we’re having to de-radicalise people who have been radicalised. That’s costing millions.”

He said the refusal of messaging services – such as WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook – to give the security services access to message data was “turning the internet into an anarchic violent space”.

“Because of encryption and because of radicalisation, the cost of that is heaped on law enforcement agencies,” Mr Wallace told the newspaper.

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