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Facebook and tech giants to target attacker manifestos, far-right militias in database

Image Credit: Reuters

The group reported that a counterterrorism organization created by some of the largest U.S. tech companies, including Facebook and Microsoft, is significantly expanding the types of extremist content that companies share in a key database in order to suppress material emanating from white supremacists and far-right militias. Reuters.

So far, the Global Internet Forum Against Terrorism (GIFCT) database has focused on videos and images of terrorist groups listed by the United Nations, and therefore mainly consisted of content from Islamist extremist organizations such as the Islamic State, Al- Qaeda and the Taliban.

Over the next few months, the group will be adding cybercriminals’ manifestos, often shared by sympathizers after the violence by white supremacists, as well as other publications and links highlighted by the UN Tech Against Terrorism initiative. He will use listings from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group, adding URLs and PDFs from more groups including the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and neo-Nazis.

Firms, including Twitter and YouTube Alphabet Inc., are sharing “hashes,” unique numeric representations of original pieces of content that have been removed from their services. Other platforms use them to identify the same content on their sites in order to view or remove it.

While the project helps combat extremist content on major platforms, groups can still post images and rhetoric of violence on many other sites and across the Internet.

The tech group wants to tackle a broader range of threats, GIFCT chief executive Nicholas Rasmussen said in an interview with Reuters.

“Anyone looking at the landscape of terrorism or extremism should understand that there are other aspects … that need attention right now,” Rasmussen said, citing threats from extreme right-wing or racially motivated violent extremism.

Technology platforms have long been criticized for failing to control violent extremist content, although they also face censorship concerns. Domestic extremism, including white supremacy and militia groups, has become particularly pressing since the January 6 bloody riots at the US Capitol.

Fourteen companies can access the GIFCT database, including Reddit, Snap owned by Snapchat, Instagram owned by Facebook, Verizon Media, Microsoft’s LinkedIn, and Dropbox file-sharing service.

GIFCT, now an independent organization, was created in 2017 under pressure from the US and European governments following a series of deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels. Its database mainly contains digital footprints of videos and images related to groups on the UN Security Council’s consolidated sanctions list and several specific attacks broadcast live, such as the 2019 mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

GIFCT has faced criticism and concerns from some advocacy and digital groups over censorship.

“Excessive advances in this direction lead to the violation of someone’s right to freedom of expression on the Internet,” Rasmussen said.

The group wants to further expand its database, including hashes of audio files or specific characters, and expand its membership. It was recently joined by rental giant Airbnb and email marketing company Mailchimp.

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