Social media giants 'consciously failing' to stop use of sites by terrorists

Social media giants 'consciously failing' to stop use of sites by terrorists

Social media giants with European headquarters in Ireland are “consciously failing” to combat the use of their sites to promote terrorism and killings, a British parliamentary report has found writes Cormac O'Keefe.

The report said organisations such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have become “the vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda and the recruiting platforms for terrorism”.

House of Commons Home Affairs Committee chair Keith Vaz said the internet was the “modern front line” in the war against terrorism.

Mr Vaz said corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter were “hiding behind” their supranational legal status, but claimed their platforms were “the lifeblood of Daesh”, also known as Islamic State or IS.

The report heard witness evidence from the three corporations, as well as police, experts, Muslim leaders, and affected families.

“Social media companies are consciously failing to combat the use of their sites to promote terrorism and killings,” said the report.

Mr Vaz said: “We are engaged in a war for hearts and minds in the fight against terrorism. The modern front line is the internet.

“Huge corporations like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, with their billion- dollar incomes, are passing the buck by hiding behind their supranational legal status, despite knowing that their sites are being used by the instigators of terror.”

Facebook and Twitter have their European headquarters in Ireland and Google, which owns YouTube, also has its European headquarters here.

The report called for a “zero tolerance” approach by the corporations to online extremism, including enticement to join extremist groups or commit attacks of terror or any glorification of such activities.

Social media giants 'consciously failing' to stop use of sites by terrorists

“If they continue to fail to tackle this issue and allow their platforms to become the ‘Wild West’ of the internet, then it will erode their reputation as responsible operators,” the report said.

In their evidence, the internet giants told the committee they took their responsibilities very seriously.

Facebook and Google said they proactively notified law enforcement agencies about terrorist material which was a threat to life.

Social media giants 'consciously failing' to stop use of sites by terrorists

Twitter said that, between mid-2015 and February 2016, it had suspended 125,000 accounts globally that were linked to terrorists, while Google said it removed more than 14m videos globally in 2014, which related to all kinds of abuse.

However, the report said this was “a drop in the ocean”. The report said these companies, along with Microsoft, had agreed in May to new EU rules on taking down illegal hate speech. It said these efforts should be replicated to counter online extremism.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.


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