Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft – in a coalition of some of the most powerful and influential companies in tech and social media, now making an independent organization meant to combat terrorist propaganda and extreme content online.
“It shows an acknowledgement on the part of the tech sector that their platforms are contributing to radicalization and to terrorist propaganda and that I think there’s a willingness to take on that propaganda of all stripes,” Heidi Beirich, an extremism researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
Continuous criticism from regulators and lawmakers worldwide has made the four giants reconsider their strategy, moving on to expanding the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) into its own independent company – funded by the four, with full-time staff and an executive director. Furthermore, Facebook announced that it will include an advisory board full of government officials, working groups and academics.
The issues expected to be addressed first and foremost are radicalization and crisis responses, as well as keeping violent and extreme videos and streams from surfacing on the Internet – with an example of recent Christchurch shooting being live streamed.
“I think there is a desire in our space for there to be meaningful cross-platform collaboration around these issues – issues of terrorism, extremism, hate,” Daniel Kelley, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology and Society commented.
“There were representatives of Facebook there who spoke on a panel specifically about the fact that other forms of terrorism, including white supremacy, needed to be handled in the same fashion,” Heidi Beirich said about a Facebook discussion with government officials, academics and others on GIFCT’s efforts.
With the varying definitions of “terrorism” all over the world, Facebook has said the GIFCT will stick primarily to the United Nations’ definition of terrorism.
Rep. Max Rose, heading the bulk of the House Homeland Security Committee’s counterterrorism subpanel operations on confronting radicalization, said about the news: “I’ve long called for the GIFCT to be transformed and scaled up in order to combat the spread of terrorism online because frankly, the status quo wasn’t working. I’m encouraged that social media companies are taking this challenge seriously and I believe this announcement is an important step in the right direction – but make no mistake, this is just the beginning.”