UK prime minister Theresa May used her speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Thursday (25 January) to attack encrypted app Telegram for being a "home to criminals and terrorists". She said tech firms "need to do more" to stop illegal activity.
The Conservative Party has long been outspoken about the need for tighter control of tech firms, often toying with the idea of clamping down on strong encryption. Telegram, like WhatsApp before it, appears to now be the latest piece of software to gain the ire of the state.
The PM said during her Davos address: "Just as these big companies need to step up, so we also need cross-industry responses because smaller platforms can quickly become home to criminals and terrorists."
"We have seen that happen with Telegram. And we need to see more co-operation from smaller platforms like this. No-one wants to be known as 'the terrorists' platform' or the first-choice app for paedophiles."
Telegram, only one of many encrypted chat services, is frequently linked to the terror group Isis, which use it to spread propaganda and news from both the front lines of war and admirers' bedrooms.
Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, who will also be in Davos this week, hit back at the comments on Twitter, linking to a blog post which complained about "power-hungry" politicians.
"Some politicians tend to blame tools for actions one can perform with these tools," he wrote. The article, titled "Don't shoot the messenger", was first published in March last year.
It stated: "Politicians often try to score points by blaming encrypted messaging apps for all the evils of modern society. Government officials call for backdoors in popular end-to-end encrypted apps to "stop terrorism", neglecting the fact that this can't and won't work.
"What makes terrorism possible is not the weapons terrorists use, and not the messages they exchange – they have a rich history of improvisation in both these fields.
"But there exists one truly indispensable enabling element: the media.
"It's no wonder that terrorist organisations invest a lot into maximising their press coverage. This is because, when you look at the numbers, any other cause of death and destruction (save for maybe crushing vending machines) dwarfs acts of terror, however cruel and unjust they may be."
May said that the UK will soon "lead the world" in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). A new advisory body was also announced.
On the same day, Matt Hancock MP of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, gave a speech about up the introduction of a new Digital Charter for the UK.
He said: "The internet can be used to spread terrorist material; it can be a tool for abuse and bullying; and, it can undermine civil discourse, objective news and intellectual property.
"The digital revolution has changed the way that people behave and interact."
Hancock claimed that the new charter will "move the philosophy we apply to the internet from libertarian to liberal values – to cherish freedom, but not the freedom to harm others."