Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft Join Forces To Fight Online Extremism

Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft Join Forces To Fight Online Extremism

The Debrief: They've been accused of 'passing the buck' in the past, will this new move go far enough?

2016 hasn’t been a great year for social media. A technological advancement which was once hailed as the best thing to happen to humanity since sliced bread (or, perhaps more accurately, working electricity) social networks are now facing unprecedented levels of scrutiny because of the sort of content that people are using them to share.

As much as the Internet is a force for good it is also a means by which people promote negativity. In recent years high profile examples of this problem include the way that terror group the Islamic State (isis) have harnessed social media to share extremist propaganda.

Responding to pressure when it comes to the sharing of such extremist material, today Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft announced that they are teaming up to tackle extremist content.

The tech companies will come together and use an information-sharing service to identify and remove what they’re terming ‘extremist content’ from their platforms. This is something that governments around the world have long been calling for.

In August this year the Home Affairs Select Committee accused social media sites of ‘passing the buck’ when it came to extremism. Many felt that they had become a ‘recruiting platform’ for terrorists. Twitter, in particular, has been discussed at length in this respect.

The companies will create ‘a shared database of unique digital fingerprints’ which are known as ‘hashes’ to identify images and videos which promote terrorism. This ranges from terrorist recruitment videos to violent imagery and memes. By forming an information sharing group they will be able to remove the same content across multiple sites and platforms.

In a joint statement entitled ‘Partnering to Help Curb Spread of Online Terrorist Content’ the companies said:

‘There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services. When alerted, we take swift action against this kind of content in accordance with our respective policies.’

There are questions to be asked, however. We don't know hjow exactly ths will work or what it will cover. How are Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft defining ‘terrorist content’? Will this extend to white supremacists? The far right? Will it extend to the most egregious men’s rights activists?

What's certain is that social media giants and tech companies are going to have to continue step up to the plate in 2017.

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Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

Tags: Facebook et al, Tech, ISIS