Everybody loves it when tech giants get together and use their powers for good. The latest crime-fighting supergroup includes Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and YouTube, who have announced they will be working together to stop the posting and sharing of violent and extremist images across their social media networks.
They plan to create a shared database made up of unique "digital fingerprints" that can identify, flag, and remove images and videos promoting terrorism, hate crimes, or other violent rhetoric. This information-sharing initiative aims to help curb the spread of online terrorist content faster than ever before.
“There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services,” they announced jointly in a statement.
The shared database will be made up of what the group calls “hashes” – a digital “fingerprint” for images and videos that promote terrorism, including recruitment videos, memes, and violent images. When one company identifies and removes offending imagery, the other companies can use the “hash” to identify and then remove the same piece of content from their network.
As each company has their own policy and definition of what constitutes terrorist content, the statement explains that they will start with sharing hashes for “the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos… content most likely to violate all of our respective companies’ content policies.”
Technology companies have been facing mounting pressure and criticism from governments worldwide for doing little to prevent the use of their platforms for the spread of extremist violence and propaganda. Back in January, top White House officials, including the heads of the FBI and the NSA, met with some of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile companies including Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft to discuss combating terrorism online and the responsibility of these services for their content.
In May, all four – Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and YouTube – agreed to European Union (EU) regulations that require them to review and take down if necessary any hateful online content within 24 hours of being notified. In August, a lawsuit was dismissed that accused Twitter of being responsible for the spread of ISIS through terrorists using Twitter accounts to recruit members and Twitter not stopping it.
Now, the time has come for action.
As of today, this new initiative includes just these four tech giants, although they have stated that in the future additional companies who wish to be involved are welcome.
“By sharing this information with each other, we may use the shared hashes to help identify potential terrorist content on our respective hosted consumer platforms,” the statement continued.
“We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online.”