Tech companies are under increasing pressure to do more about terrorism. The internet is an ideal place for extremist organizations to share propaganda and communicate with members, and the industry's giants have decided to do something about that.
The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism seeks to make the services of Microsoft, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter “hostile to terrorists and violent extremists”. It does this, in part, through data sharing.
All platforms will be sharing data and resources related to counter-terrorisms, and will actively seek out new detection techniques. However, perhaps the most standout idea is the spirit of collaboration between the four. They plan to not only foster co-operation with each other, but also assist smaller tech companies.
“The spread of terrorism and violent extremism is a pressing global problem and a critical challenge for us all. We take these issues very seriously, and each of our companies have developed policies and removal practices that enable us to take a hard line against terrorist or violent extremist content on our hosted consumer services,” said a joint statement on the Microsoft blog. “We believe that by working together, sharing the best technological and operational elements of our individual efforts, we can have a greater impact on the threat of terrorist content online”.
The four giants have already committed to a concrete initial plan. Firstly, they will work on an improvement of the Shared Industry Hash Database. Announced in December, the project contains a database of images and videos that can be utilized for speedy removal of content. Each has a unique ‘hash' that makes it easier to identify specific media.
However, there's also a commitment to new initiatives. The four will “work with counter-terrorism experts including governments, civil society groups, academics and other companies to engage in shared learning about terrorism”.
Those groups include the U.N. Security Council Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, as well as the ICT4Peace initiative. Microsoft and the others will help to develop best practices, but it will also develop “counterspeech”.
In essence, they will continue initiatives like Microsoft's counter-narratives on Bing, which serves contradictory ISD ads on terrorist content. With this new forum, they plan to contribute to each other's efforts and train other organizations to do the same.
While the limitation of free speech online remains a hot topic, it's great to see these rivals putting aside differences and working towards a common good. Further information will be coming “in due course”, but in the meantime the forum will run a series of learning workshops in Silicon Valley.
You can read more about The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism on the Microsoft blog.