The west's biggest tech giants had a chance to talk with UK home secretary Amber Rudd on Thursday about the rising threat from terrorists online. Among them was Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft, who promised to work with the government to remove extremist content.
Rudd was previously outspoken in her views about encryption, calling for a ban in apps like WhatsApp. The statement followed terrorist attacks in London last week when Khalid Masood used the messaging service shortly before the attack.
However, the debate was noticeably missing from yesterday's discussion. Instead, the tech firm's joint message promised to make sure “terrorists do not have a voice online”.
Responding to questions, Rudd said the topic would come in later discussions.
Microsoft and Terrorism
The talks come after accusations by the Media that Microsoft failed to comply with government requests about the attacker. However, further information reveals the tech giant provided officials with data within thirty minutes of a request.
Chief legal officer Brad Smith later clarified, “Our team responded in under 30 minutes last week to verify that the legal order was valid and provided law enforcement the information that was sought. This of course is different from helping a government outside the rule of law to turn over private information or hack or attack a customer, which we've said clearly we will not do.”
Today's statement by the tech companies seemed to echo Microsoft's sentiments. It committed to greater control of terrorist propaganda without mentioning hacking or customer data.
The four will develop a three-pronged approach to terrorism. First, they will “encourage the further development of technical tools to identify and remove terrorist propaganda”.
This will combine with further help to younger companies to get them to that point, and sharing of solutions in that regard. Finally, the companies will support civil society organizations in their efforts to create and promote counter-narratives.
One mention was the video hash sharing database that helps to identify and remove terrorist content across search engines. It comes from a collaboration between the four companies, with plans for expansion.
As technology becomes more prevalent, companies are becoming increasingly responsible for the media that's available on it. There's a fine line between tackling terrorism and hurting innocent users, and it will be interesting to hear what comes out of the later debate.