Web Giants Join Forces to Remove Terror Content

Some of the world’s biggest web firms are coming together in an attempt to halt the spread of terrorist content online.

In a joint missive on Monday, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube promised to develop a shared database of “unique digital fingerprints” known as “hashes” used for identifying content deemed to be terrorist-related.

The idea is that the database will make it quicker and easier for the firms to identify erring content and enforce their policies.

The statement continued:

“Our companies will begin sharing hashes of the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos we have removed from our services – content most likely to violate all of our respective companies’ content policies. Participating companies can add hashes of terrorist images or videos that are identified on one of our platforms to the database. Other participating companies can then use those hashes to identify such content on their services, review against their respective policies and definitions, and remove matching content as appropriate.”

However, the joint strategy isn’t as joined-up as it seems.

Firstly, each participating organization will decide independently what images and hashes to contribute to the database.

Also, each company will decide whether to remove content when a database match is found, according to its own policies.

However, the scheme could be extended to other web firms in the future.

The firms also pointed out that no personally identifiable information will be shared, that they are committed to the idea of free speech, and that they “seek to engage with the wider community of interested stakeholders in a transparent, thoughtful and responsible way” going forward.

It’s no secret that terror groups like ISIS are growing increasingly adept at using platforms like YouTube and Twitter to spread their message, recruit followers and organize themselves.

On Saturday, the European Commission announced it would be pushing for “faster detection of online terrorism incitement and hate speech” and more effective take-down mechanisms.

“There is growing evidence that online incitement to hatred leads to violence offline. We must step up work to limit and eradicate this phenomenon online,” said justice commissioner, Vera Jourová.

“However, tackling online hate speech is a delicate exercise that requires to define clearly where freedom of expression stops and where hate speech starts. Freedom of speech is a human right, but this right does not protect illegal hate speech inciting violence and hatred."

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