Facebook and tech giants target manifestos of attackers and far-right militias in database
July 26 (Reuters) – A counterterrorism organization formed by some of America’s biggest tech companies, including Facebook (FB.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O), dramatically expands the types of extremist content shared between companies in a database key, in an attempt to crack down on documents from white supremacists and far-right militias, the group told Reuters.
Until now, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) database has focused on videos and images of terrorist groups on a United Nations list and therefore consisted largely of content from Islamist extremist organizations such as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Over the next few months, the group will add manifestos from attackers – often shared by supporters after white supremacist violence – and other posts and links flagged by the UN Tech Against Terrorism initiative. It will use lists from the intelligence-sharing group Five Eyes, adding URLs and PDFs of more groups including the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and Neo-Nazis.
The companies, which include Alphabet Inc’s Twitter (TWTR.N) and YouTube (GOOGL.O), share “hashes,” unique digital representations of original content that has been removed from their services. Other platforms use them to identify the same content on their own sites for review or removal.
Although the project reduces the amount of extremist content on mainstream platforms, groups can still post violent images and speech on many other sites and parts of the internet.
The tech group wants to tackle a wider range of threats, GIFCT executive director Nicholas Rasmussen said in an interview with Reuters.
“Anyone looking at the landscape of terrorism or extremism should understand that there are other parts (…) that demand attention right now,” Rasmussen said, citing threats of violent extremism from extreme right or racially motivated.
Tech platforms have long been criticized for failing to control violent extremist content, although they also face censorship issues. The issue of national extremism, including white supremacy and militia groups, took on renewed urgency in the wake of the deadly January 6 riot on the United States Capitol.
Fourteen companies can access the GIFCT database, including Reddit, Snap (SNAP.N), owner of Snapchat, Facebook-owned Instagram, Verizon (VZ.N) Media, Microsoft’s LinkedIn, and file-sharing service Dropbox ( DBX.O).
GIFCT, which is now an independent organization, was created in 2017 under pressure from the American and European governments after a series of deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels. Its database mainly contains fingerprints of videos and images linked to groups on the United Nations Security Council’s Consolidated Sanctions List and a few specific attacks broadcast live, such as the 2019 mosque shooting. in Christchurch, New Zealand.
GIFCT has been the subject of criticism and concerns from some human and digital rights groups over centralized or overly broad censorship.
“Going beyond this area leads you to violate someone’s rights on the Internet to express themselves freely,” Rasmussen said.
Emma Llanso, director of free speech at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said in a statement: “This extension of the GIFCT hash database only intensifies the need for GIFCT to improve transparency and accountability. responsibility for these content blocking resources. “
“As the database grows, the chances of mistakenly being removed only increase,” she added.
The group wants to continue expanding its database to include hashes of audio files or certain symbols and increase the number of its members. It recently added home rental giant Airbnb (ABNB.O) and email marketing company Mailchimp as members.
Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Kenneth Li, Lisa Shumaker and Rosalba O’Brien
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