While al-Qaeda took advantage of the Internet’s “dark spaces” to recruit and instruct followers and to spread its message, the Islamic State (IS) has used the web and social media openly. Its beheading videos are the product of a carefully managed propaganda campaign, waged by means of technological innovations that allow its operatives to remain difficult or impossible to trace. In order to counter this threat, argues Robert Hannigan, head of the British intelligence agency tasked with monitoring electronic communication, governments will need the cooperation of the private sector:
I understand why [private technology companies] have an uneasy relationship with governments. They aspire to be neutral conduits of data and to sit outside or above politics. But increasingly their services not only host the material of violent extremism or child exploitation, but are the routes for the facilitation of crime and terrorism. However much they may dislike it, they have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as do the rest of us. If they are to meet this challenge, it means coming up with better arrangements for facilitating lawful investigation by security and law-enforcement agencies than we have now.