In response to mounting concern about the role social media plays in terrorism and violent propaganda, Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report , Facebook (FB) - Get Report , Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report and YouTube, owned by Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Report Google, formed the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, the companies announced on Monday.
Big tech companies have been facing increasing pressure to quickly remove pro-terrorism propaganda from the Internet and alert authorities following recent attacks, including one that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK in May and another that killed eight people and injured almost 50 more in London in June.
On June 22 European leaders gathered at a summit in Brussels to discuss a number of topics, including how to prevent more terrorist attacks, and decided that tech companies should form an industry forum and develop new technology and tools to improve the process for detecting and removing content that could incite attacks.
Although each of the four companies has been working for years to curb the spread of terrorism and violent extremism, they believe working together will have a more powerful effect. "We believe that by working together, sharing the best technological and operational elements of our individual efforts, we can have a greater impact on the threat of terrorist content online," the companies said in a joint statement.
The new forum should be seen as an extension of previous efforts, including the EU Internet Forum and the Shared Industry Hash Database. Launched in 2015, the EU Internet Forum was created to help improve methods for identifying and removing terrorist content online. The Shared Industry Hash Database was launched in 2016 and keeps track of digital fingerprints (called 'hashes') on terrorist photos and videos so that when one site removes them, they can be easily removed from another site.
With the newest forum formation, the companies will be concentrating on three areas: technological solutions, research and knowledge sharing.
For technology solutions, the companies will be building better tools off of previous efforts, like the Hash Database. They will also come up with a standard transparency reporting method to remove content that's classified as pro-terrorism.
Second, the companies will be commissioning research to help them in their own counter-terrorism efforts, as well as to help inform those making future decisions about how to best remove terrorist content from the Internet.
Lastly, the companies will be working with the government, civil society groups, academics and other companies on how to improve their fight against terrorist content. This commitment to share knowledge includes a joint partnership with the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate and the ICT4Peace Initiative to establish a network that lets them share tips with smaller companies, collaborate with other expert organizations to develop better practices, and help each other with counterspeech efforts. While defined loosely, counterspeech refers to combating extremism and hateful content with common, crowd-sourced responses.
In June, Google's general counsel Kent Walker wrote a blog post on its recent efforts to take down any extremist or terrorist content and reiterated that Google was committed to doing its part. "Collectively, these changes will make a difference," he wrote. "And we'll keep working on the problem until we get the balance right. Extremists and terrorists seek to attack and erode not just our security, but also our values; the very things that make our societies open and free. We must not let them."
Updated from 3:54 p.m. with additional information.
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