Facebook outlines strategy to prevent terrorist content

Reuters

Reuters

Facebook officials said in a blog post today that the company uses AI to find and remove "terrorist content" immediately, before users see it. Other questions, he said, include: "Is social media good for democracy?"

The Facebook executives said they remove terrorists and posts that support terrorism once they become aware of them.

J.M. Berger, a fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague, said a large part of the challenge for companies like Facebook is figuring out what qualifies as terrorism - a definition that might apply to more than statements in support of groups like the Islamic State.

"We agree with those who say that social media should not be a place where terrorists have a voice", Bickert and Fishman write. This is a departure from Facebook's earlier practice of relying on users to flag suspect content for removal. Among the solutions: artificial intelligence.

The insight comes as Facebook feels pressure from Europe to keep terrorist groups from using the site for propaganda and recruitment.

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On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a joint campaign to go after "terrorists and criminals" on the internet and to root out radicalizing material.

Over the past year Facebook has increased its team of counterterrorism experts and now has more than 150 people primarily dedicated to that role.

"We're constantly identifying new ways that terrorist actors try to circumvent our systems and we update our tactics accordingly". "We are now focusing our most cutting edge techniques to combat terrorist content about ISIS, Al Qaeda and their affiliates, and we expect to expand to other terrorist organizations in due course", said Bickert and Fishman. "But we know we can do better at using technology".

After a string of terror attacks over the past couple years, some social media companies are increasing their counterterrorism efforts.

Along with Google's (GOOGL) YouTube, Twitter (TWTR) and Microsoft (MSFT), Facebook has joined a database that assigns digital fingerprints to militant content so partners can bar it from their own site.

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Systems to block accounts of terrorists across the flagship social network and its sister apps, Instagram and WhatsApp, are also being developed.

Facebook remains tight-lipped about how exactly most of its underlying technology works, but the company took a major step forward in sharing details around its image matching technology.

Aside from individual posts, Facebook is also working on improving its detection of users who could be supporters of terrorism from their profile likes.

The post concludes: "We want Facebook to be a hostile place for terrorists".

Digital media and tech companies have faced criticism (as well as legal tussles) over their use of encryption software, which makes it hard for government authorities to monitor the communications between groups they deem to be extremist. But the company says it will use artificial intelligence to stop the spread of such inappropriate content on the platform.

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In the post, Bickert and Fishman admit "AI can't catch everything".

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