Today 26 June 2017, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube announced the formation of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an initiative to make their hosted consumer services hostile to terrorists and violent extremists.
“I welcome this major initiative, which elevates our existing private-public partnership with these and other companies,” said United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Jean-Paul Laborde, Executive Director of the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). CTED leads ‘Tech Against Terrorism’ (www.techagainstterrorism.org) together with the foundation ICT4Peace.
“Terrorism is a global threat that can only be defeated by sustained, joint efforts. The United Nations remains committed to addressing the scourge of terrorism, and we look forward to remaining a key partner to the private sector. The Security Council remains seized of this and other issues that represent serious threats to international peace and security, and its adoption last month of resolution 2354 (2017) provides a comprehensive international framework to counter terrorist narratives,” Mr. Laborde added.
Underlining that the spread of terrorism and violent extremism is a pressing global problem and a critical challenge, these companies have already developed policies and removal practices that enable them to take a hard line against terrorist or violent extremist content on their hosted consumer services. By working together, and through the sharing of the best technological and operational elements of their individual efforts, they believe they can have a greater impact on the threat of terrorist content online.
The new forum builds on initiatives including the EU Internet Forum and the Shared Industry Hash Database; discussions with the UK and other governments; and the conclusions of the recent G7 and European Council meetings. It will formalise and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between these companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups, and academics, government, as well as supranational bodies such as the EU and the UN.
The scope of the work will evolve over time as needs shift in responding to the ever-evolving terrorist and extremist tactics. Initially, the work will focus on:
- Technological solutions: these companies will work together to refine and improve existing joint technical work, such as the Shared Industry Hash Database; exchange best practices as they develop and implement new content detection and classification techniques using machine learning; and define standard transparency reporting methods for terrorist content removals.
- Research: they will commission research to inform their counter-speech efforts and guide future technical and policy decisions around the removal of terrorist content.
- Knowledge-sharing: these companies will work with counter-terrorism experts including governments, civil society groups, academics, as well as other companies to engage in shared learning about terrorism. And through a joint partnership specifically with UN CTED and the ICT4Peace Initiative (techagainstterrorism.org), implementing Security Council resolution 2354 (2017), they are establishing a broad knowledge-sharing network to:
- Engage with smaller companies: they will help smaller companies develop the technology and processes necessary to tackle terrorist and extremist content online.
- Develop best practices: these companies already partner with organizations such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies , Anti-Defamation League and the Global Network Initiative to identify how best to counter extremism and online hate, while respecting freedom of expression and privacy. They can socialise these best practices, and develop additional shared learnings on topics such as community guideline development, and policy enforcement.
- Counterspeech: all of these companies have robust counterspeech initiatives in place (e.g., YouTube’s Creators for Change, Jigsaw’sRedirect Method, Facebook’s P2P and OCCI, Microsoft’s partnership with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue for counter-narratives on Bing, and Twitter’s global NGO training programme). The forum they have now established allows them to learn from and contribute to one another’s counterspeech efforts, and discuss how to further empower and train civil society organisations and individuals who may be engaged in similar work and support ongoing efforts, such as the Civil society empowerment project (CSEP).
These companies will be hosting a series of learning workshops in partnership with UN CTED/ICT4Peace in Silicon Valley and around the world to drive these areas of collaboration.
Further information on all of the above initiatives will be shared in due course.