Facebook, tech giants target manifestos of attackers, far-right militias in database

A militia member in a bulletproof vest and Three Percenters militia crest stands at Stone Mountain as various militia groups hold rallies in Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States, August 15, 2020. – Reuters / Queue

A counterterrorism organization formed by some of America’s biggest tech companies, including Facebook and Microsoft, is dramatically expanding the types of extremist content shared between companies in a key database, in a bid to crack down on documents from white supremacists and militias. extreme right, the group said. 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 extremist organizations such as Daesh, al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Over the next few months, the group will add manifestos of 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 and YouTube, 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 helps combat 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, owner of Snapchat, Facebook-owned Instagram, Verizon Media, Microsoft’s LinkedIn, and file-sharing service Dropbox.

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. from Christchurch, New Zealand.

GIFCT has been the subject of criticism and concerns from some human and digital rights groups regarding censorship.

“Going beyond this area causes you to violate someone’s rights on the Internet to express themselves freely,” Rasmussen said.

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 and email marketing firm Mailchimp as members.


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