Tech Giants Team Up To Create Database To Fight Terrorism

(REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Microsoft announced Monday a partnership to combat terrorism online by creating a database of terrorist content.

“Starting today, we commit to the creation of a shared industry database of ‘hashes’ — unique digital ‘fingerprints’ — for violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images that we have removed from our services,” the tech giants said in a statement. “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.”

It is not clear if the partnership will focus exclusively on Islamic terrorism.

While there has been a focus from the White House on social media’s involvement in jihadist terror, the European Union launched an online “code of conduct” in May which Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft —- all members of the anti-terror partnership —- reportedly helped create.

This code wasn’t a law but instead a “public commitment” from the companies to fight racism and xenophobia, the Guardian reported.

Neither YouTube, Twitter nor Microsoft responded directly to an inquiry about if this partnership will combat right-wing terror. Facebook declined to respond on the record.

Their statement about the partnership said, “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.” The companies did not respond to an inquiry about what right-wing “terrorist images” would look like.

All four companies in the partnership have language in their content policy outlawing terrorist content. Microsoft has said terrorist content is material “posted by or in support of organizations included on the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List that depicts graphic violence, encourages violent action, endorses a terrorist organization or its acts, or encourages people to join such groups.”

Twitter and Facebook both have vague policies regarding what is terrorist content. Twitter said in a statement: “There is no one-size-fits-all approach for dealing with this type material; every platform is different. As such, we have adopted an innovative model, developing a hybrid technical and reporting toolkit that works for Twitter first. The result has been a movement of terrorist content off the platform. We also partner with leading organisations working to counter violent extremism.”

Twitter did not respond to an inquiry about what organizations it has partnered with. YouTube’s terrorism policy is similar to Microsoft’s. Its policy says: “YouTube strictly prohibits content intended to recruit for terrorist organizations, incite violence, celebrate terrorist attacks or otherwise promote acts of terrorism. We also do not permit foreign terrorist organizations to use YouTube.”

YouTube is owned by Google, which also owns Jigsaw. Jigsaw describes itself as a “technology incubator that aims to tackle the toughest geopolitical issues.” Jigsaw announced in September that it will be partnering with a start-up to combat American “far-right extremism.”