Online giants launch initiative against terror and hate speech

Staff of internet giants based in Ireland will play a key part in a new global initiative aimed at depriving online services to terrorists and violent extremists.

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and YouTube, which is owned by Google, all have their headquarters for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in Ireland — including units tasked with combating terrorist propaganda and hate speech.

The four tech corporations have announced a Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism.

It comes on the back of heated criticism after the Manchester and London terror attacks, with British prime minister Theresa May accusing internet giants of allowing terrorist ideologies “safe space to breed” and calling for new international agreements to regulate the area.

Last August, the UK House of Commons’ home affairs committee accused the corporations of “consciously failing” to stop extremists and terrorists using their sites.

In a joint statement, the four corporations said that the spread of terrorism and violent extremism is a “pressing global problem” and poses a “critical challenge” to them.

It said each of their companies had developed practices against such content on their services.

“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,” read the statement.

It said the forum builds on initiatives including the EU Internet Forum and discussions with the UK and other governments.

“It will formalise and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster co-operation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups, and academics, governments, and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN.”

It said the forum will work on improving technical solutions, funding research, and sharing knowledge.

A spokesperson for Facebook Ireland said: “There are hundreds of people who work on our global counter-terrorism efforts in various teams based in many of our offices around the world, some of whom are in Dublin.”

Staff in Twitter in Dublin are also involved in the work of the forum as their public policy personnel are based here.

Twitter’s most recent transparency report said it had suspended almost 380,000 accounts for violations related to the promotion of terrorism between July and December 2016.


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