Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube have launched a partnership aimed at combating terrorists online. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism builds on several existing initiatives, which are designed to scrub terrorist recruitment material from the internet and promote counter-narratives to potential recruits. The forum is supposed to make it easier for its members to cooperate with each other, as well as with governments, smaller companies, and non-governmental organizations.
The forum’s scope is supposed to evolve over time, but its core goals include improving technology for detecting terrorist material, creating best practices for addressing “extremism and online hate,” and sharing information about members’ respective counter-speech tools — like Google Jigsaw’s Redirect Method, which places anti-terrorist advertisements alongside keywords popular with potential ISIS recruits. It will also partner with the UN’s counter-terrorism committee to host a series of workshops.
A statement on Twitter describes the counter-terrorism forum as an outgrowth of the EU Internet Forum and the Shared Industry Hash Database, among other efforts. The Internet Forum, launched in 2015, is a public-private partnership that pushes for better methods of identifying and removing terrorist propaganda and hate speech. The Hash Database is a shared database of digital fingerprints from “the most extreme and egregious” terrorist images and videos, so material that gets flagged and removed from one platform can be automatically taken down from others.
These kinds of initiatives are partially a response to pressure from European governments, which have pressured companies to limit hate speech. This has worried some privacy advocates in the US, where free speech rules are broader. It’s also hard to gauge how effective companies’ initiatives have been. Regardless, the statement says that more information about the project will be shared “in due course.”