Leaders Urge for Quicker Removal of Online Extremist Content

Andre Parker September 20, 2017
Leaders Urge for Quicker Removal of Online Extremist Content

British Prime Minister Theresa May urged internet giants to take on extremist and/or “terrorist” contents online more rapidly and aggressively.

The British Prime Minister will be accompanied by the Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and the French President Emmanuel Macron in raising the concern on the sidelines of the annual United Nations summit.

According to reports, the three leaders want extremist contents to be taken down within two hours of their posting, a period in which most materials spread quicker. This comes amid escalating fear against the Islamic State and other similar extremist groups, which are believed to be creating and spreading online terrorist contents too quickly.

The materials in question include links to videos that justify and laud terrorism, as well as contents encouraging converts to commit acts similar to recent attacks in Westminster and Barcelona earlier this year.

An analysis by Home Office shows that ISIS shared around 27,000 links to extremist content in the first five months of this year. These materials, once shared, remain available online for 36 hours on average. Shortening that period of time will also squeeze the number of people who will be able to view the content.

According to a report, May will express her retaliation against terrorist acts. “As prime minister, I have visited too many hospitals and seen too many innocent people murdered in my country,” she was predicted to say. “When I think of the hundreds of thousands of victims of terrorism in countries across the world, I think of their friends, their families, and their communities, devastated by this evil. And I say enough is enough.”

This concern was discussed by May and Macron when the two leaders met in June, and they have decided to push for more robust actions, which would include fines on companies that would fail to act. This was further aggravated after last week’s attack on a London Underground train at Parsons Green. Before that attack, a thinktank report was released, showing that there were more people in Britain who clicked on jihadist propaganda than anywhere else in Europe.

The government is believed to be targeting online tech companies to develop a technology which can detect extremist content at the earliest possible instance, or in other words, before being uploaded in the first place.

A government source has said that these companies have been doing something “but just not enough.”

“In particular, the government believes they could do more to develop new technology that would identify extremist content before it can be shared,” said the source. “These companies have some of the best brains in the world. They should really be focusing that on what matters, which is stopping the spread of terrorism and violence.”

On a final note, the source said that they want the companies to “break the echo chambers.”

Three of the companies who said they will attend the meeting are Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp, and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Facebook, which will be represented by Monika Bickert in the meeting, has stated publicly that it is looking for ways to develop artificial intelligence to help automate the identification of terrorist materials. Bickert, who is Facebook’s head of global policy management, is expected to make remarks about the company’s commitment to the battle against extremism.

Meanwhile, Twitter has stated that it suspended roughly 300 thousand accounts during the first six months of the current year. 75 percent of those accounts have been suspended before their first tweet.

Microsoft will be represented by Dave Heiner, a senior policy advisor, while Google will be sending general counsel Kent Walker, who is tasked to speak on behalf of a recently formed industry group called the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism.

Ahead of the event, May said,“We need a fundamental shift in the scale and nature of our response—both from industry and governments—if we are to match the evolving nature of terrorists’ use of the internet.”

A report indicated that advertisers are going to attend the meeting as well, since the UK government aims to pressure the companies to take a tougher approach.

On the other hand, Youtube has been under fire for its failure in taking down over 120 Islamist and far-right extremist videos, which include materials that promote Adolf Hitler and the Taliban.

“It is simply unacceptable that Youtube are taking so long to remove material that contains images and contents that glorify extremist violence. Whether that’s Islamist extremism or far-right extremism, the reality is that this material is far too easy for access,” said Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Commons home affairs committee.

As a response, Youtube insisted that it has been stepping up efforts to tackle online extremism and said that it has already taken down most of such videos in the past month even before complaints were received.

May and the other two leaders demand evidences of progress from the companies by the time G7 interior ministers in Rome conduct a meeting on October 20.

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Andre Parker


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